The U.S. Is Actually Pretty Good at Integrating Immigrants. So Why Are We Cutting Integration Funding?

New post for Campus Progress.

Recent immigrants line the streets of Chandler, Ariz., to participate in the city's 16th annual multicultural festival. SOURCE: Flickr / Devon Adams

 

A new joint study by the Immigration Policy Center, the British Council, and the Migration Policy Group on immigrants’ integration into countries around the world shows that the United States has some fairly strong integration policies for documented immigrants, ranking a respectable ninth out of 23 countries surveyed in North American and Europe.

In particular, the study found that the United States’ anti-discrimination laws are extremely good—the best out of all the countries surveyed. And despite the politically convenient xenophobia that rears its ugly head on a regular basis in American politics, we’re not too bad at moving new immigrants from total strangers to full participants in society.

According to a statement released by the three groups:

The U.S. also ranked high on the access to citizenship scale because it encourages newcomers to become citizens in order to fully participate in American public life. Compared with other countries, legal immigrants in the U.S. enjoy employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and the opportunity to reunite with close family members.

There’s also a pretty nifty page on the Migrant Integration Policy Index site where you can play around with visual representations of the data.

But immigrants and immigrant advocates shouldn’t celebrate just yet—state and federal budget cuts could give those great integration programs the axe.

Immigrant services are getting slashed at both the state and federal level. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) proposed cutting its immigrant services from $8.6 million in 2010 to $2.5 million in 2011. Progress Illinois reports that this would translate to over 47,000 fewer immigrant families losing access to state-funded services—despite the fact that Latino and Asian populations in the state have jumped by more than 33 percent in the last decade.

The federal budget bill approved by the House of Representatives slashes 45 percent of funding for immigrant resettlement, impacting both separated immigrant families and local economies dependent on the boost immigrants give.

In Buffalo, N.Y., a city that has been hard hit by the economic recession and other economic trends in recent decades, the proposed federal budget would keep hundreds of apartments vacant each year and numerous families would remain separated from their loved ones abroad.

At Immigration Impact, Mary Giovagnoli points out, “Immigrants who integrate into U.S. society go on to become innovators, entrepreneurs, and future job-creators … [R]estoring $11 million to the budget of the Office of Citizenship should be a no brainer given that this relatively small investment in the potential of aspiring Americans can pay huge dividends for the United States.”

It makes sense, of course, that some who want to do away with the 14th  Amendment (a constitutional mandate, it should be noted, that contributed to the United States’ high ranking in the Migrant Integration Policy Index) would view programs to help immigrants integrate as a slash-worthy budget item—they’d rather those immigrants had never come in the first place.

Such cuts aren’t sound public policy; $11 million is a drop in the bucket in the overall federal budget that makes an enormous difference in the lives of newcomers to the United States. At a time when our economy needs any boost it can get, we shouldn’t be cutting funding to a population that is producing an increasing number of entrepreneurs and community revitalizers.

Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress.

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