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MIRA Blog

MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.

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The Color of Wealth in Boston

Growing income inequality across the United States, including wide variation by ethnic group, is a much reported story. But the even more dramatic disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity are less well known. The Color of Wealth in Boston, a ground-breaking new study on the economic well-being of Boston’s ethnic communities, has just been released by the Boston Fed's Regional & Community Outreach department, in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Duke University's Consortium on Social Equity. The report—focused on whites and nonwhites, including U.S. born blacks, Caribbean blacks, Cape Verdeans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans—demonstrates the deep disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity for the Greater Boston region. While income supports day-to-day consumption as well as the ability to save and invest, wealth—including not just liquid assets but home and business equity, retirement accounts, and health savings—is a direct measure of families' ability to make longer term investments in homes, in education, and in business creation, and to save for retirement. Wealth in the form of liquid assets is also key to families’ ability to weather adverse economic shocks in the form of job loss, unexpected debts, illness, or other unplanned events. While it has been common to lump the financial experiences of all black and all Hispanic households together, in fact subcategories of blacks and Hispanics—for example, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, or U.S. blacks and Caribbean black immigrants—exhibit important differences. Using new data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color survey, the Boston Fed's report finds that: Nonwhite households have only a fraction of the net worth attributed to white households. While white households have a median wealth of $247,500, Dominicans and U.S. blacks have a median wealth of close to zero. Of all nonwhite groups for which estimates could be made, Caribbean black households have the highest median wealth with $12,000, which is only 5 percent of the wealth attributed to white households in the Greater Boston area. The typical white household in Boston is more likely than nonwhite households to own every type of liquid asset. For example, close to half of Puerto Ricans and a quarter of U.S. blacks lack bank accounts) compared with only 7 percent of whites. For every dollar, the typical white household has in liquid assets (excluding cash), U.S. blacks have 2 cents, Caribbean blacks 14 cents, and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans less than 1 cent. Whites and nonwhites also exhibit key differences in less-liquid assets such as homeownership, car ownership, and retirement accounts or health savings. While most white households (56 percent) own retirement accounts, only one-fifth of U.S and Caribbean blacks have them. Only 8 percent of Dominicans and 16 percent of Puerto Ricans have such accounts. Most whites—79 percent—own a home, whereas only one-third of U.S. blacks, less than one-fifth of Dominicans. Although members of communities of color are less likely to own homes, among homeowners they are more likely to have mortgage debt. Nonwhite households are more likely than whites to have student loans and medical debt Population growth in the Greater Boston region is already driven by the nonwhite population increase. In the coming decades, a significant rise in the share of nonwhite populations is projected both in Boston and nationwide. The wide racial wealth gap described in this report is a worrisome sign that many families do not have sufficient assets to offer better opportunities for future generations. As The Color of Wealth in Boston emphasizes, the financial well-being of communities of color is central to ensuring the inclusive long-term growth and prosperity of the city and the region. The staggering disparities identified in this analysis should encourage local and state policymakers and other stakeholders find policies that can help narrow the wealth divide for these communities. Such policies should include: providing opportunities for asset development; ensuring fair access to housing, credit, and financial services; ensuring equal  opportunity to good-paying jobs regardless of race or ethnicity; strengthening retirement incomes; promoting access to education without overburdening individuals with debt; and providing access to healthcare while helping minimize medical debt. Policies aimed at bridging the wealth gap should also consider the wide diversity among nonwhite populations and be targeted or adapted accordingly, and includes input from practitioners who are familiar with the unique needs and challenges different communities of color face. In short, it is time for Massachusetts—and its chief city—to start doing more to live up to being a true Commonwealth for all residents....
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Executive Re-Action

The 2014 midterm elections are now over and it looks like Congress is going to be even more partisan than before. This follows the pattern that over the years, bi-partisanship has simply become partisanship. People have a knee-jerk reaction to oppose the president, and as of late they blame this opposition on President Obama’s discussion of executive action.
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Fixing the Adams Scholarship

The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, established in 2004, provides a tuition waiver for up to eight semesters of undergraduate education at a Massachusetts state college or university for eligible non-citizens. However, we’ve learned that his year some eligible non-citizens have been informed that they are not eligible for the scholarship due to their immigration status. Luckily, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute is now helping redress this problem for those who have been denied. You may qualify for the scholarship if you or a family member has applied for or been granted any of the following statuses:
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National Welcoming Week does Samba

This morning, MIRA's initiativeWelcoming Framingham’ organized a free 30-minute Carnaval Samba Lesson with a live drummer in front of the Framingham Memorial Building, as part of the National Welcoming Week celebrations across the country.

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Welcome to Welcoming Week 2014

Welcoming America is a national organization which promotes mutual respect and integration between foreign born and U.S. born Americans. This September marks the 3rd annual National Welcoming Week, organized by Welcoming America.

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Fast food workers and home care workers fight for $15 and the right to form a union

This morning  the MIRA Coalition joined fast food workers and home care workers who gathered in downtown Boston to fight for higher wages as part of the nationwide $15 Movement, which held  similar events  in over 150 cities across the country.

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"E Pluribus Unum," African Style

By CARA FOSTER-KARIM

Ethiopian_storeWEB"I came [to] America like everybody else who imagines America as a great nation," says   Yiheyis Derebew. “At first I worked as a parking lot manager at Logan Airport, but I was always looking for a way to introduce the great culture of Ethiopia to this country.” When Derebew arrived in Massachusetts in 1997, he was surprised to realize that Americans’ main impression of Ethiopia, and Africa in general, was one of famine, poverty, and desperation. Determined to set the record straight, he and his wife saved up enough until they were able to open their own business. Their store, Lalibela, is located on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and sells Ethiopian clothing, jewelry, books, and traditional food items such as teff flour, spices, and coffee beans. In response to people’s misconceptions, he says, “I wanted to show that that was not the right picture of Ethiopia. It’s the only non-colonized country in Africa, with very nice weather, very good soil, and rich history and cultural traditions.” Although his store primarily serves Ethiopian and other African customers, Derebew says people frequently walk in off street, intrigued by the window displays, who have never even heard of Ethiopia.

Yiheyis Derebew is one of many African immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts who not only contribute to the local economy, but also help to enrich their neighborhoods by sharing their culture. According to a recent Boston Globe article, immigrant-owned businesses in Massachusetts generate $2.8 billion in income annually, 14 percent of the state’s total. Immigrants are also twice as likely as native-born residents to start a business.

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Putting Inaction to Rest

By CASSIE SCHAUBLE

Funeral_RallyWEB1As many Democrats and Republicans have cautioned, those who prevent the passing of immigration reform often commit political suicide. Yet unfortunately, a large portion of Republican members of the House of Representatives seem to be digging their graves right now. Instead of taking up the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, House Republicans together decided to take a piecemeal approach, and not to deal with the issue until after the long August recess.

In response to the House’s inaction, a New Orleans-style funeral procession—complete with an energetic jazz band quartet and makeshift coffin held high-- made its way on a recent Wednesday from the Massachusetts Republican Party Headquarters at North Station to the historic Granary Burying Ground. There rally-goers symbolically laid inaction to rest . Passersby paused to get a better look, and cars honked in support as a couple dozen marchers from community-based groups holding signs to “Keep Our Families Together!” This mock-funeral mourned the demise of a political party that has continued to ignore the pleas of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

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Inna's Story: Building Her American Dream One Book at a Time

By Elizabeth Maguire, Citizenship Program Intern

Inna Ivers first came to the United States from Bulgaria 13 years ago as a library sciences student looking for work experience and to improve her English.

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What Part of “Now” Don’t You Understand?

LJULY10_RALLY_015webMEDast Wednesday in Washington, hundreds of families, DREAMers, and immigration reform supporters rallied on the steps of the Capitol chanting “si se puede.” Just inside, House Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, made the crippling decision to scrap the Senate’s resolution for reform, turning away from the human face of this debate to look only at fence lengths and border-patrol numbers.

On June 27, hope for comprehensive immigration reform made some real headway when a bill passed through Senate on a bipartisan vote. Both parties agreed on things like a flexible guest-worker program and providing more visas for highly skilled workers, as well as paving a path to citizenship. Democrats had hoped for a 70 vote victory in the Senate, and in the end they came up just two votes shy of their goal. With 15 Republicans voting for the bill, they proved that democratic compromise could work, creating a wave of optimistic momentum as the bill moved into the House. However, the price of the agreement was over-the-top border security, an endeavor that would cost nearly $46 billion.

Yet it still wasn’t apparently enough for Republicans in the House.

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Four for the Fourth

Tmarcus_santoso celebrate the Fourth of July, MIRA staff spoke to four New Americans about their perspectives on the immigrant journey, and about the plight of Aspiring Americans — the 11 million undocumented immigrants who this summer are hoping Congress will pass sensible and humane immigration reform. Here are their stories!
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A Message To Mira Members and Supports (AND clinic cancellation)

On this terrible day of tragedy and uncertainty in Greater Boston, we at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition extend our deepest condolences to the family of officer Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty yesterday. We also offer our hopes for a speedy recovery to those hurt, and our prayers for continued safety and security to all  residents of the Bay State.

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The Boston Marathon Bombing

MIRA sends its deepest condolences to the victim's of yesterday's heinous bombings at the marathon in our hometown, Boston.

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The Waiting Ends for the End of Waiting

waitingBy Sarang Sekhavat, MIRA Federal Policy Director:

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally issued the final rule for provisional waivers of inadmissibility, what advocates are calling the “Family Unity Waiver”.  DHS initially announced back in January 2012 that it would make changes to the way that undocumented relatives of US Citizens could re-enter the United States after leaving the country to obtain an immigration visa abroad.  In April, DHS issued an interim rule and requested comments from the public.  On January 3, 2013, DHS released the final rule which incorporates some of the suggestions from public comments, but leaves many of our major concerns untouched.  The final rule will go into effect on March 4, 2013.

The Old Rule

The new rule is necessary because of the unfair way that the federal government processes I-601s, Applications for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.  According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain undocumented relatives of US Citizens who benefit from a family-based petition had to leave the United States in order to obtain their immigration visa from a US consulate.  The problem is, once an undocumented individual leaves the country, they are subject to a 10-year bar to returning.  So essentially, the person is leaving the country to obtain documents required to be here legally, but once they leave, they are not legally allowed to return for 10 years.  The INA does allow an individual to file the I-601 to request permission to return to the United States prior to the 10 years, but current regulations say that the individual must file the I-601 outside the country.  That means that the beneficiary of the immigration visa must leave the country and be subject to the 10 year bar first, then file the application and hope they are allowed back into the country.

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STEMming the Tide

A TelescopeImmigrantslament of education reformers in recent years has been the declining share of U.S. college students entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions—and the loss of opportunity for both those students and the U.S. economy as a whole.

A  new report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells another, less familiar part of this story, though one well-known to those paying attention: the growing role of immigrant workers in these same STEM industries, where the foreign-born account for 26.1% of workers with PhDs and 17.7% of master’s degree holders.

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The Other Elephant in the Room: Immigration and the Debates

With the first debate focusing on domestic topics and the third debate covering foreign policy issues extensively, only the second meeting between the Presidential candidates provided insight into either’s plan for immigration reform.

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Brown v. Warren: An untouched topic and untapped electorate

As the race for the Senate seat in Massachusetts heats up and Election Day draws near, it is important to consider the effects the outcome will have on the state’s minority and immigrant communities – and vice versa.

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Political Grandstanding: more from the town of Milford

The town of Milford has been surprisingly successful in drumming up media attention around its agreement with ICE to sign on to its "IMAGE" program, which would give the city access to the controversial E-Verify system. Although we would like to ignore this piece of political theater, we are obliged to state our reservations concerning the program.
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Targeting undocumented immigrants - Globe editorial by Eva Millona

The Boston Globe's blog "The Podium" published an editorial by MIRA's executive director, Eva Millona, explaining why the new RMV provision won't make Massachusetts any safer. Read the article or see the full text below. Take action on this issue!

Targeting undocumented immigrants

By Eva A. Millona | JULY 24, 2012

The Legislature recently pushed through a provision in the state budget that clearly targeted undocumented immigrants, requiring the RMV to ask for “proof of legal residence” before applicants could register their vehicles. In seeking to amend that language, Governor Patrick noted that “it serves the public’s safety interests to know, through registration, the name and whereabouts of the owner of every vehicle on the Commonwealth’s roads.” But the Legislature sided with state lawmakers from Arizona to Alabama who want to dedicate state resources to the federal issue of immigration checks — by the Department of Transportation’s estimate, the provision will cost over a million dollars to implement.

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Free Citizenship Clinic and a BIG thanks!

This Saturday, MIRA will join the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative (GCBI) in hosting our only Boston-area citizenship clinic of the summer. These free clinics provide legal permanents residents (LPRs) with the guidance, referrals and materials needed to successfully complete their application, pass their citizenship test, and become fully integrated and engaged U.S. citizens.


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