White House Honors MPI Awardees for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives as "Champions of Change"
WASHINGTON — The four winners of the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) 2011 E Pluribus Unum Prizes for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives today were designated by the White House as “Champions of Change” and their innovative, life-changing work is being showcased this week by the White House.
The White House’s recently launched Champions of Change initiative shines the spotlight each week on “ordinary Americans [who] are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”
This week, the Champions of Change focus is on the critical importance of immigrant integration efforts to the country’s future. To illustrate this point, the White House is profiling on its website MPI’s four E Pluribus Unum Prize winners, including: a Hispanic economic development initiative in Kansas City; a San Diego refugee resettlement agency; a Philadelphia-based organization with affiliates across U.S. college campuses that match student volunteers with immigrant elders; and a San Francisco-based national program that helps foreign-trained professionals rejoin the health care field at their skill level.
The E Pluribus Unum Prize winners were invited to the White House on May 19, a day after the MPI prizes ceremony, to discuss their work and U.S. immigrant integration efforts with high-ranking administration officials, including White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz and DPC Senior Advisor on Immigration Felicia Escobar.
“We are delighted both that the Obama administration is so aggressively promoting the importance of immigrant integration efforts and that they are using winners from MPI’s national integration prize competition to help make their point,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “For too long immigrant integration needs have been crowded out of federal policymaking discussions. The White House’s efforts to embrace and address these issues vividly illustrate the breadth and quality of integration work happening across the country and how crucial this work is to ensuring that our immigration policies help us win the future by building a stronger, more vibrant economy and nation.”
The E Pluribus Unum Prizes, established by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, seek to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices and inspire expanded efforts to integrate immigrants and their children into the mainstream of U.S. society. The winners, who were honored at the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on May 18 and attended the White House meeting on May 19, were:
- Bernardo Ramirez, executive director of Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City: HEDC helps immigrant entrepreneurs in Kansas City realize their business potential through bilingual business development training and a business incubator program. In assisting with the start-up and growth of more than 1,100 immigrant businesses, HEDC is helping bring economic vitality to once-languishing areas of Kansas City, business by business.
- Bob Montgomery, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego: IRC in San Diego assists more than 1,100 refugees each year, helping them successfully resettle and become self-sufficient, productive members of the San Diego community. It provides refugees assistance in opening businesses and obtaining jobs, access to credit-building loans, English literacy and citizenship instruction, financial literacy courses and even urban farming opportunities. Crucially, these programs are also open to the broader community, with IRC in San Diego assisting another 5,000 community members each year.
- Patience Lehrman, director of Project SHINE – Philadelphia: From its inception at Temple University’s Intergenerational Center, Project SHINE (Students Helping In the Naturalization of Elders) has trained nearly 10,000 college students to work with elderly immigrants and refugees, helping more fully integrate over 40,000 members of this less visible immigrant population into American society. Project SHINE is active in nine states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, and also partners with immigrant communities and local health/aging networks. Through Project SHINE, student volunteers tutor immigrant seniors in English language and civics education, helping many prepare for their citizenship exam.
- José Ramón Fernández-Peña, founder and director of the Welcome Back Initiative – San Francisco: With nine centers across the United States, the Welcome Back Initiative has worked with more than 11,000 foreign-trained immigrant health professionals to help them return to the health care workforce at their skill level. WBI assists these doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers and other health professionals get licensed and credentialed in the United States by providing them with orientation and pathways to the education and professional English language training they need to successfully rejoin the health care field. Through partnerships with colleges, community groups and local governments, the WBI model has been replicated in Boston, Denver, New York, Providence (RI), San Diego, San Antonio, the Seattle area and suburban Washington, D.C.
Profiles, videos and more information about the honorees can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit: www.migrationpolicy.org.