About Us: What Is MIRA?
MIRA is the largest coalition in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. With offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, we advance this mission through education and training, leadership development, institutional organizing, strategic communications, policy analysis and advocacy.
MIRA is a dynamic and multi‐ethnic coalition with more than 130 organizational members, including grassroots community organizations; refugee resettlement agencies; providers of social, legal and health services, faith-based organizations and civil and human rights advocates. We organize and empower our members and allies, and together we mobilize immigrant communities to advocate for themselves, and amplify and support their voices. MIRA is a respected leader on immigrant issues at the state and national levels, and an authoritative source of information and policy analysis for policymakers, advocates, immigrant communities and the media.
We have worked to secure millions of dollars in state funding for programs that support the social, civic and economic integration of immigrants and refugees. We advocate for progressive policies at the state, local and national levels, and fight to defeat anti-immigrant measures. We have also helped thousands of green card holders to become U.S. citizens, registered thousands of new Americans to vote, and built capacity among our members to provide legal services to immigrants. Through our AmeriCorps New American Integration Program, we support a range of programs to help newcomers to the U.S. learn English and adapt to their new life.
MIRA is also a founding member of the National Partnership for New Americans, which is co-chaired by our Executive Director Eva A. Millona. NPNA represents the collective power and resources of the country’s 37 largest regional immigrant and refugee rights organizations in 31 states, and leverages their knowledge and expertise to advance a national strategy.
Now, at this critical time in our country, we want to make Massachusetts a model for how to welcome and integrate people from all around the world. Let’s stand up together for a better, more inclusive America!
All immigrants and refugees are empowered to fully participate in their communities’ social, economic and civic life and advocate for themselves.
One in six Massachusetts residents, and one in five workers, is foreign-born. MIRA starts from the premise that immigrants and refugees are an asset to our Commonwealth. They come here with a wide range of skills and ambitions, and they strengthen our economy and our democracy. In our view, diversity is a gift, and as immigrant and refugee families feel increasingly rooted in the U.S., and our society becomes more inclusive and welcoming, all Americans will benefit.
How well and how soon immigrants and refugees can realize their economic potential depends on how well they are integrated into society. We view integration as a two-way process: Immigrants and refugees work to learn English, adapt to the local culture, and build a new life in the U.S., and receiving communities actively welcome them and help ease their transition. That means, among other things, removing barriers to access to key programs and services. Municipal and state leaders need to understand that when immigrants and refugees prosper, our economy grows and we are all better off.
Immigrant integration is at the core of our work – whether we are advocating to expand funding for English classes, advising local and state officials on “welcoming” or “trust” policies, helping journalists tell immigrant stories, guiding green card holders through the naturalization process, or registering new Americans to vote.
MIRA was founded in 1987 in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which allowed 3–5 million undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents. The goal was to not only advocate for the rights and integration of those immigrants, but also build a diverse, member-driven coalition to advance the interests of all foreign-born people.
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, we joined forces to become effective advocates in Washington as well as at home. Thus from the start, MIRA has been able to combine strong local knowledge with a national perspective.
Still, for much of its first decade, MIRA was mainly a "policy shop," with a very small 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, with a strong voice at the local, state and federal levels.
Over time, Massachusetts’ immigrant and refugee population has grown significantly, to 1.1 million, about half of whom arrived after 2000. MIRA’s work has greatly expanded as well, with a large and diversified membership and high-profile organizing work such as the establishment of the annual Immigrants’ Day at the State House, which has brought together as many as 1,500 people to Beacon Hill to advocate for immigrant rights.
MIRA has also played a key role in highlighting major policy challenges, with reports such as Democracy On Hold, which illustrated the problems of the naturalization backlog, and has been instrumental in the establishment of state programs and budget lines to support immigrant integration, such as funds to support naturalization. We worked towards passage of a federal immigration provision (245i) that allowed many families to reunite; as well as state legislation requiring interpreters and creating 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, and contributed to significant policy changes in the wake of devastating raids in New Bedford in 2007.
In its third decade, MIRA has undertaken several major 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 on immigrant integration in the nation. The Agenda not only shaped Massachusetts state policies, but also served as a model for national policies adopted under President Obama. MIRA was also a co-founder of the National Partnership for New Americans, established in 2010 to give a more prominent voice to state immigrant and refugee advocacy coalitions in Washington, D.C.
Today, as we face the most hostile environment for immigrants in our 30-year history, MIRA is committed to serving as a strong, unifying force, connecting immigrants and refugees, service providers and a wide array of allies to fight together for a just and inclusive society.