New Americans 101

September 29, 2015
Hispanic mother and father with child in a pumpkin patch.

Photo of a Hispanic family in a pumpkin patch.By Laura Irizarry, Special Assistant, Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary

This past year, several ACF coworkers and I have met on a regular basis to work on a plan of action to help new residents in America achieve their dreams. We are committed to making this new initiative work by

  • Increasing access to our ACF programs
  • Working with other federal agencies
  • Engaging with stakeholders

For those unfamiliar with this initiative, let me provide you a quick guide:

What is the New Americans Project?

On Nov. 21, 2014, President Obama established the White House Task Force on New Americans. This taskforce is an interagency federal initiative to coordinate a federal effort to better integrate New Americans. In April 2015, the Taskforce sent the President a plan (PDF) Visit disclaimer page outlining an integration strategy for the federal government, including:

  • Establishing goals and recommended actions to build welcoming communities
  • Strengthening existing pathways to naturalization and promote civic engagement
  • Supporting the skill development, entrepreneurship, and protect new American workers
  • Expanding opportunities for linguistic integration and education
  • Strengthening federal immigrant and refugee integration infrastructure

These are all great suggestions that will benefit New Americans.

Who are New Americans?

This term includes foreign-born individuals (and their children and families) who seek to be fully integrated into their new community in the United States. These persons include:

  • Immigrants. Foreign-born individuals who obtain lawful permanent resident status.
  • Refugees. Individuals outside their home country unable/unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution or lack of protection on account or race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group.

Many new Americans do not speak English as their primary language. And they may have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English.

Three goals have been set by the taskforce to help New Americans: 

  • Civic Integration. When all community members belong, are secure in their rights and responsibilities, exercise their liberties, and share ownership in the community and our nation’s future.
  • Economic Integration. When both employers and immigrant workers understand their workplace rights and responsibilities, and workers have the resources to excel, embark on career pathways, and obtain economic self-sufficiency.
  • Linguistic Integration. When English learners have access to effective English language instruction to support their acquisition of English language skills while also valuing and recognizing the importance of maintaining native language proficiency to preserve culture and intergenerational communication and expand economic opportunities.

What is ACF doing to move forward with this Initiative?

  • In March 2015, ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg established the ACF Work Group on New Americans to facilitate agency-wide coordination of efforts to facilitate the civic, economic, and linguistic integration of our immigrant and refugee stakeholders.     
  • ACF’s Early Childhood Development and its Office of Regional Operations are hosting regional webinars, presentations and symposiums highlighting linkages between early learning and childhood development with immigrant and refugee integration.   
  • The Children’s Bureau, in collaboration with the National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Visit disclaimer page , is providing relevant training and technical assistance. Through the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness Visit disclaimer page and other key resources, we are promoting dual language learning. We are expanding translation services in fiscal year 2016, and translating additional guidance, policy statements, resource tools and other vital documents from English to Spanish, the language most spoken among New American stakeholders. 
  • On Oct. 19, ACF will host an all-staff learning event to discuss language access in the context of the Task Force on New American’s recommendations on linguistic Integration.
  • This fall, we are also launching The Faces of New Americans, a series of blogs highlighting ACF employees who were born outside of the United States and who identify with the immigrant or refugee journey.

If you would like to learn more about the New Americans Initiative, please contact Laura Irizarry.

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