Leaving Too Much To Chance: A Roundtable on Immigrant Integration Policy
This report provides a summary of issues discussed during a meeting convened by the Migration Policy Institute in which 50 senior experts explored the current policy agenda on immigrant integration. The focus of the dialogue encompasses opportunities and risks to immigrant integration in three policy domains: Pre K-12 education; work and work supports; and civic integration, including naturalization and the redesign of the citizenship test.
The far-reaching implications of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for immigrant and English Language Learner (ELLs) students dominated the education dialogue. In particular, participants expressed concern over the lack of comprehensive ELL achievement data, inflexible testing policies, the declining emphasis on native language development, and challenges in capacity building. However, they also identified several areas of opportunity, including making Pre-K programs more accessible, restructuring schools to better address the needs of ELL and immigrant students, ensuring adequate ELL funding through fiscal equity lawsuits, and passing the DREAM Act.
On the employment and benefits end, participants discussed possible federal funding cuts to job-training and adult education programs under pending legislative proposals. The problems of limited health care coverage and poor working conditions were also raised. Policy recommendations offered by participants include authorizing state use of federal funds to expand services for immigrants, improving immigrants’ economic literacy skills, leveraging employer interest in workforce training and programs, and exploring creative mechanisms for financing health benefits for newcomers.
Finally, with regard to civic integration, participants highlighted the increasing civic and legal value of naturalization. In anticipation of the newly redesigned citizenship test, participants advocated meaningful research on vulnerable subgroups and enhancing the quality and accessibility of test preparation resources.