Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) on Thursday announced the winners of its 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prizes for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives, honoring a Michigan Arab American organization that strengthens ties between immigrant and native-born communities, a California labor-business alliance that provides on-the-job English language and other classes for janitors and a California education coalition that has achieved significant instructional reform for English language learners. Each was given a $50,000 award. The Prizes’ Corporate Leadership Award was given to a major banking institution that supports citizenship promotion and economic empowerment for immigrants.
The E Pluribus Unum winners reflect the diversity of actors in the public and private sectors that are involved in immigrant integration efforts at the state and local levels. The winners will be honored Monday during a plenary luncheon at the National Immigrant Integration Conference, which will draw to Baltimore hundreds of community, advocacy, business and government leaders who work daily to advance immigrant integration in their communities.
The prizes program, established by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, seeks to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices and to inspire others to take on the important work of integrating immigrants and their children so they can become full participants in U.S. society. The E Pluribus Unum winners (click on links for more detail about each initiative) are:
• ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Success): Based in Dearborn, MI, ACCESS is the largest Arab American human services provider in the United States. Founded in 1971 in a storefront, ACCESS today serves tens of thousands of individuals yearly, offering people from origins in the Arab world and other immigrant communities a comprehensive array of wraparound services ranging from job training and medical assistance to after-school education. Through its Smithsonian Institution-affiliated Arab American National Museum and other initiatives, ACCESS serves as a national leader in promoting understanding of the Arab American community and has given Arab American groups the tools to help dispel myths and better connect with immigrant and native-born communities.
• Building Skills Partnership (BSP): Launched in the San Francisco Bay area in 2000 in partnership with Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West and later expanded across California, BSP brings together unlikely allies – labor and business interests – to offer janitors and other low-wage property service workers and their families help on the job from professional instructors, volunteer tutors (including college students) and office mentors. Through its ADVANCE program, engineers from Google, Microsoft and other companies tutor the mostly immigrant janitors and service workers who clean their offices, teaching valuable English and computer skills to a population that has few opportunities for educational or career advancement. Each year, BSP provides training for more than 2,000 low-wage property service workers who often have difficulty attending traditional English as a Second Language and instructional programs.
• Californians Together: A statewide coalition of most stakeholder groups in education — parents, teachers, school administrators, school board members and civil-rights groups — Californians Together mobilizes communities and policymakers to protect and improve the education of all California students, including 1.4 million English language learners (ELLs) in grades K-12. Its work has affected the framework for ELL instruction statewide and shaped classroom-level practices to improve the quality of daily instruction ELLs receive. In 2008, Californians Together developed the Seal of Biliteracy, an award given by school leadership in recognition of students who attain a high level of proficiency in two or more languages (including English) by high school graduation. In 2012, more than 10,000 graduating high school students earned this first-in-the nation state recognition for biliteracy. New York recently enacted its own Seal of Biliteracy and other states are seeking to follow suit.
• Citi: Winner of the Corporate Leadership Award, Citi works with non-profit and public-agency partners to reduce financial barriers to citizenship for eligible legal immigrants and to expand economic empowerment for underserved low- and moderate-income individuals and communities. Citi Community Development is a key supporter of Citizenship Maryland, a first-in-the-nation initiative supported by a major banking institution that offers microloans to help legal immigrants who are eligible for citizenship afford the $680 application fees. The goal of the Maryland program, launched in 2011 and coordinated by CASA de Maryland, is to remove financial barriers to citizenship while also building participants’ financial knowledge. Citizenship has demonstrated benefits in terms of opening new opportunities for education, jobs and increased income. Yet more than 8 million legal permanent residents eligible to apply for citizenship have not done so.