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E Pluribus Unum: Not Just a Founding Ideal - A Bridge to the Future

New America Media, Commentary, Margie McHugh and Michael Fix Posted: May 21, 2009

E Pluribus Unum -- out of many, one. With a new immigration debate brewing and ongoing concerns about both economic recovery and longer-term workforce competitiveness, it is time to dust off this historic ideal and put it to work in solving some of the thorny issues we face.

When it comes to immigration, in recent years policymakers in Congress, state capitals and local communities have been preoccupied with a single issue: illegal immigration. Broader immigration and immigrant integration considerations have, for the most part, been left out of the policy mix and the public debate.

Yet, leveraging the ambitions, talents and patriotism of immigrants should be a key strategy that provides a bridge to the strong communities and more successful local economies that we know we must create.

Its for that reason that the Migration Policy Institutes National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy has launched a new national awards program, the E Pluribus Unum Prizes, which recognize some of the most exceptional U.S. immigrant integration initiatives.

This week, we honor with $50,000 individual prizes four exemplary programs that work day-in and day-out to help immigrants and their children join the mainstream of U.S. society and build stronger ties between immigrants and the native-born.

The 2009 winners were selected from more than 500 applicants, ranging from non-profit and government programs to integration initiatives run by businesses, religious organizations, public schools, universities, service providers and advocacy organizations. They are:

AVANCE El Paso, Texas: An innovative early childhood and parenting educational initiative hosted by 14 schools in the nations fourth poorest city, AVANCE-El Paso helps preschool children and their immigrant parents break the cycle of poverty. Children in the program outperform their peers by 12 to 15 percentage points and have higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates. And AVANCE parents further their English, education and job skills.

Internationals Network for Public Schools New York and California: A network of 11 small public high schools operating on existing school campuses in New York City and Oakland, California, Internationals Network educates late-entry, overwhelmingly low-income and limited English proficient children from more than 90 countries. The network is currently serving 3,500 of what school systems generally think are the most difficult-to-serve students and yet a remarkable 90 percent of its graduates go on to college.

Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative Littleton, Colo.: Civic and government leaders created the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative to address rapid demographic change head-on. Their low-cost, high-impact efforts include a one-on-one citizenship mentoring program that brings long-term residents together with newcomers, and an innovative One-Stop Information Center, housed at a local public library, which assists immigrants on topics ranging from jobs, education, health and dental care, transportation, banking and housing.

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition's Welcoming Tennessee Initiative Nashville, Tenn.: This is a public education and communications campaign aimed at fostering constructive public dialogue in a state facing profound demographic changes. The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative creates opportunities for Tennessee residents, native-born and immigrant alike, to discuss the effects of immigration, its historical and national contexts, and how to develop strategies for strong, inclusive communities.

These awardees and others working to help immigrants and their children succeed are renewing and updating the ideal of E Pluribus Unum. In the words of U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who joined the prize winners at the awards ceremony, For too long immigrant integration issues have been overlooked. We honor our proudest founding ideals as a country, and make some of the smartest investments possible in our future, by unlocking the skills and talents of the tens of millions of new Americans and their children who are an integral part of our society and of the new economy we must build.

Of course, making sure that immigration is a win-win for immigrants and the communities that receive them will require that we speak honestly about, and effectively address, the shortcomings of our current immigration and integration policies. This will not be easy because the solutions will require all of us - whether immigrant or native-born - to do our part. But imagine how much more successful we will be in addressing the key issues of our day if we are guided by the wisdom of that simple principle: out of the many, one.

Margie McHugh and Michael Fix are co-directors of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy at the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the analysis of immigration trends and policies in the United States and around the world.


Related Articles:

No Justice for Vincent Then, No Justice for Luis Now

Supreme Court Opens a Door, Barely, for Immigrants Fighting Deportation

Is the U.S. Experiencing its First Brain Drain?




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