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Illinois Public-Private Partnership Earns National Award for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives

Press Release
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Illinois Public-Private Partnership Earns National Award for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives

WASHINGTON – The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) on Tuesday announced the four winners of its second annual E Pluribus Unum national awards for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives, honoring a partnership between the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights that makes immigrant integration a deliberate, strategic priority of the state.

The E Pluribus Unum Prizes program, established by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, seeks to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices and to inspire others to take on the important work of integrating newcomers and their children so they can become full participants in U.S. society.

The Illinois New Americans Integration Initiative and the three other E Pluribus Unum Prize winners will be honored tonight at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. featuring national policymakers and elected officials. The winners were selected from nearly 350 applications.

The Illinois initiative, which the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) have operated for nine years, spans a set of programs that range from helping 42,000 people become U.S. citizens to making sure that an array of training and other services provided by the department are accessible to LEP customers. The initiative’s “We Want to Learn English” program offers vocational English training at Chicago city colleges and its Illinois Welcoming Center has helped nearly 5,000 people obtain the services, education and information they need from other state agencies and community-based organizations.

“The Illinois collaboration between state government and the leading umbrella organization for immigrant groups in Illinois is a textbook example of opening government to newcomer communities,” said MPI Senior Vice President Michael Fix, co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “This extremely successful public-private partnership shows how much good can be accomplished when major institutions take a coordinated approach to helping immigrants participate more fully in their communities.”

Grace Hou, the DHS assistant secretary of programs, said: “Through the New Americans Initiative, we are addressing immigrant needs holistically through a comprehensive array of immigrant integration services and programs. As a result, we are allowing immigrant families to meet their basic needs, encouraging civic engagement and naturalization, and increasing employment opportunities.”

Said Joshua Hoyt, ICIRR executive director: “The New Americans Initiative is built on three overarching objectives: Encouraging citizenship and community engagement;  building public-private partnerships to promote immigrant integration with key actors across the state; and helping a major government agency  update and streamline its systems to reflect the needs and strengths of new residents.”

The Citizenship Promotion Act sponsored in Congress in 2007 by then-Sen. Barack Obama was based upon the Illinois initiative.

The Illinois New Americans Integration Initiative and the three other winners, each given a $50,000 award, reflect the diverse actors involved in immigrant integration efforts at the state and local levels. The E Pluribus Unum Prizes were created to encourage the sharing of effective integration practices and raise awareness of the need for greater focus on immigrant integration issues.

The other E Pluribus Unum national award winners are: the Latino Community Credit Union (Durham, NC); Tacoma Community House (Tacoma, WA); and Upwardly Global (which is headquartered in San Francisco, CA, with offices in Chicago and New York). McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., received an honorable mention.

Additional information about the winners can be found at www.integrationawards.org. For more information or to set up interviews, please contact Michelle Mittelstadt at 202-266-1910 or at mmittelstadt@migrationpolicy.org.

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.