The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) is the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. We serve the Commonwealth's one million foreign-born residents with policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, strategic communications, citizenship assistance, and AmeriCorps initiatives that provide capacity-building for community-based organizations. The Coalition involves an active membership of over 130 organizations, including community-based groups, social service organizations, ethnic associations, schools, refugee resettlement agencies, health centers, hospitals, religious institutions, unions and law firms, as well as thousands of individual members, contributors, and allies. We also serve immigrants in New Hampshire through our affiliate, the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees (NHAIR).
Policy Analysis and Advocacy
MIRA provides members, policy makers, and the media with timely and accurate analysis of immigration law, policy, and budget items at both the federal and state levels. We are the only voice exclusively representing the rights and integration of the foreign-born on Beacon Hill, and the primary voice representing New England in the coordinated national effort to improve priorities on Capitol Hill.
Organizing has become one of MIRA's largest components. We do some grassroots organizing through projects such as our Get out the Vote and Democracy School campaigns, but most of our organizing connects, informs, and empowers our member organizations and the immigrant communities they serve. This means not only uniting behind common causes, but also supporting member organizations to effect local change themselves.
Training and Leadership Development
We offer trainings throughout the year with an eye toward developing a new generation of immigrant leaders. Some are broad, such as our three-day Immigration Law Training, while others are specialized, such as those developed specifically for immigration service providers or legislative aides. Public trainings are listed on our calendar and noted in our MIRA Bulletin. We also welcome your proposals and requests: view a list of past trainings here.
MIRA unites its departments through its communications work, with the fundamental goal of educating the public about the foreign-born and providing members and allies with supportive information via traditional and new media. Our communications department also seeks to empower immigrants and their allies through media strategy and media technology trainings.
Please Note: MIRA provides naturalization assistance through our citizenship program, but does not provide other direct legal or social services to individuals. Immigrants and refugees in need of individual assistance are welcome to contact us for a referral to one of our member organizations or allies.
MIRA was founded in 1987 in response to President Ronald Reagan's signing of the nation's last major immigration overhaul, IRCA, a 1986 law that legalized some three to five million immigrants. The Coalition's immediate purpose was to become a voice for these newly legalized residents. But the founders also had a larger vision: to develop a member-driven coalition that would regularly work for the interests of all the foreign-born residents of the Commonwealth.
At the same time, similar coalitions developed in other states with large immigrant populations, such as Illinois,New York, Texas and California. As these groups built a nationwide network, MIRA became an effective advocate in Washington as well as in Boston. Still, for much of its first decade, the organization remained primarily a "policy shop" with a small full-time staff. This changed after the welfare reform law and the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, whose new restrictions on immigrants demanded a renewed political response. By the time founding director Muriel Heiberger departed in 2000, MIRA had grown to a dozen staff members, and it had become a visible actor on the national political stage as well as a behind-the-scenes analyzer and advocate.
Among MIRA's achievements in its second decade were the establishment of Immigrants' Day at the State House, an annual civic engagement gathering which continues to draw hundreds to Beacon Hill; the publication of Democracy On Hold, which illustrated the problems of the naturalization backlog; the establishment of a state budget line-item for citizenship programs; the federal passage of an immigration provision (245i) that allowed many families to reunite; the state passage of interpreter and court-advisement legislation; and the funding of numerous safety-net programs, including one for domestic violence victims.
By its 20th anniversary in 2007, MIRA had again redoubled its efforts. Twenty years after President Reagan's partial immigration overhaul, the organization became a leading voice in a new national movement for comprehensive immigration reform, backed by the crucial support of Senator Edward Kennedy. Around the same time, MIRA also founded and supported the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), opened a sister office in New Hampshire, became a leading defender of those affected by the immigration raids in New Bedford, and contributed to significant policy changes in the raids' wake. Into its third decade, the Coalition also undertook several fundamental new initiatives, from English for New Bostonians and English Works two major efforts seeking to improve English learning opportunities for adult immigrants — to producing the Commonwealth's New Americans Agenda, the most comprehensive study onimmigrant integration in the nation.
Looking ahead, MIRA continues to nurture partnerships with state and federal agencies to significantly improve the lives of immigrants and refugees. "Even in the brightest future, we have much work to do," says Eva Millona, who joined MIRA in 1999 and became Executive Director in 2008. "As a citizen-by-choice myself, I believe with all my heart that the work we do here is essential to this nation's great ongoing experiment in democracy and freedom."