Thanksgiving and New Americans

A little more than a week before Thanksgiving, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick went public with his New Americans Agenda, a comprehensive report on the state of immigrants in Massachusetts, complete with an ambitious list of action items – 131 in all – that are designed to help immigrants to integrate into the social, civic, and economic life of the Commonwealth.

Not surprisingly, the report found that a lack of English proficiency is the greatest hurdle to swift and effective integration of many immigrants, and it recommended increased funding for English classes and adult basic education programs. According to the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, the report makes several other key recommendations, including:

  • requiring training in Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Standards (CLAS) for all state managers, service-delivery staff, and employees in health and human services, public safety, and education;
  • training teachers on immigration history, trends, and cultural competency, as part of their professional development curriculum;
  • allowing all immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Massachusetts, subject to a three-year residency requirement and graduation from a Massachusetts high school or GED program;
  • improving re-licensing and re-certification programs, to help immigrant and refugee professionals to use their skills;
  • advocating comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, with a clear and affordable path to citizenship and increased border security.

In a time of border fences and anti-immigrant hysteria, it is great to see a governor taking the initiative to make his state more hospitable to immigrants, in practical ways that will speed their transition to full participation in the economic, civic, and cultural life of the state. In a way it makes perfect sense; Massachusetts was home to some of the first Europeans to permanently settle in North America. What began at Plymouth Rock, back in 1620, was the immigration that – to this day – continues to bring talented people to these shores. It’s also the place where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, a year after the pilgrims landed.

Personally, I am very thankful that America has continued to be a nation of immigrants, and I am deeply grateful for all the opportunities that many of us as immigrants enjoy here. During this Thanksgiving season, it is wonderful that our friends in Massachusetts are once again rolling out the welcome mat for another generation of new Americans. I think we’re all richer for it!

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!

[See the Press Release from the Official WebSite of the MA Office of Health and Human Services, November 17, 2009, Governor Patrick Releases New Americans Recommendations: Seeks Action Plan in 90 Days.]

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.