GAO: Leadership Needed To Help Immigrants Integrate
Friday, January 20, 2012
SAN DIEGO A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found efforts to integrate immigrants into this country lacked coordination and direction from the federal government.
The GAO interviewed leaders promoting citizenship awareness and civic integration across the country. They found a unanimous call for a national immigrant integration strategy, or, at least, federal coordination of integration efforts.
Currently, services designed to help immigrants assimilate are haphazard and sometimes conflict with local policies aimed at restricting immigrants, the GAO found.
Dowell Myers, a demographer and planner at the University of Southern California, has been critical of the federal government's failure to focus on integration efforts.
“It’s a laissez-faire operation here,” Myers said. "The only one that's not laissez-faire is the border. We try to enforce that."
He argues a smarter approach would be to: “cultivate the skills of all our residents because we can get more economic value out of them that way.”
In a New York Times op-ed, Myers pointed out a miniscule fraction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget is dedicated to helping immigrants assimilate.
A recent study from the Migration Policy Institute noted that in the early 20th century, there was a proactive immigrant integration movement aimed at exorcising so-called “Old World ways” from new European arrivals, sometimes forcibly.
But today, federal integration efforts target only refugees, who receive cash and medical assistance, help with job training, and access to English classes.
In recent years, the federal government has taken some steps to develop an immigrant integration strategy. But thus far, it remains on paper.