MIRA Joins Leaders at National Immigrant Integration Conference in Baltimore

Eight hundred to attend largest integration conference in nation

September 21, 2012 BALTIMORE — The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Organization (MIRA) will join 800 colleagues this weekend from Maine to California in the largest gathering ever held in this country on the issue of immigrant integration. Sponsored this year by CASA de Maryland, the National Immigrant Integration Conference, or NIIC, brings together leaders in government, business, academia and the non-profit sector to  ensure that immigrants have the opportunity to become integral members of the U.S. communities they call home.

The conference officially opens on Sunday with an address by Maryland governor Martin O' Malley. Later, a plenary session will explore "Active Citizenship: National Models for Success," featuring comments by USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. The plenary will also include questions from national immigrant leaders from election battleground states, in a year in which the presidency could be determined by immigrant voters.

The power of that immigrant electorate — over 40% of U.S. immigrants are naturalized citizens — is one of many hidden facts that the conference will explore. Nearly 40 million immigrants live in America, comprising 13 percent of the population and 16 percent of the workforce, accelerating the growth of small businesses, the revitalization of inner cities, and innovation in high-tech industry. Even so, immigrants remain vulnerable to workplace exploitation and continue to lack adequate access to health care. These and other issues will be examined at NIIC, the signature event of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA). Created in 2008, NPNA is a network formed by 12 state organizations and co-chaired by MIRA Executive Director Eva Millona, and Josh Hoyt, Chief Strategy Executive at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).

"I am very proud to see this year's event once again continue the growth of NIIC since its inception five years ago," Ms. Millona said. "Integration has always been at the core of MIRA's work, and we have redoubled our efforts to move beyond the headlines and divisive politics to focus on the millions of immigrants who want to learn English, become citizens, start a business, and help themselves, their families, their communities, and their great adopted homeland. That is why we came together with ICIRR and the other statewide coalitions to form the NPNA, and it's also why we launched our New Americans Integration Institute at MIRA last year."

MIRA staff members will also offer various presentations on the Massachusetts model of integration this year at NIIC, which features three full days and eight distinct conference tracks for participants to choose from. Highlights of the conference include presentations by:

Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Department of Justice,
Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education
• Bob Annibale,  Global Director, Citi Microfinance

"We are thrilled to once again contribute to this national discussion," Ms. Millona concluded. "I want to thank the Partnership, our sponsors, and the team at CASA de Maryland and their tireless director, Gustavo Torres, for the tremendous work in bringing this conference to fruition."