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'Immigrant Integration' Awards

The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute gave out awards this week for the second year in a row to honor organizations that are successfully helping immigrants to adapt to and thrive in the United States. The lingo for immigrant services in Washington these days is "immigrant integration." The awards, officially called E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one," are supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

This year, none of the award winners focuses specifically on school-age children. But they provide services that educators might want to know about when thinking of ways to support immigrant parents. After all, stability for immigrant parents helps everyone in the family to be stable.

Award winners are the Illinois New Americans Integration Initiative, Latino Community Credit Union, Tacoma Community House, and Upwardly Global. The English Under the Arches program of the McDonald's Corporation got an honorable mention. (Find descriptions and links to the winners in the awards press release).

At a forum coinciding with the giving of the awards, I learned more about Upwardly Global, a nonprofit organization that helps highly-skilled immigrants get U.S. credentials for the careers they had in their home countries. For a year now, the organization has provided an information clearinghouse about U.S. credentials for immigrants in Illinois. It has just added information about California and will soon do so for New York.

"People have lost years and critical financial resources heading down the wrong road," Nicole Cicerani, the executive director of Upwardly Global, told me. For example, she said, immigrants might take a particular course and then hear it doesn't count toward the certification or degree they need.

Cicerani said Upwardly Global has put together a group of foreign-born engineers to try to influence policies in Illinois so it's easier for engineers trained in other countries to work in engineering here.

In my personal life, I've done research at times to try to help immigrant students or friends get good information about the training they need to land better jobs. It's hard to find information on university or state government Web sites that speaks to people who have been educated in another country.

Cicerani said that many of the U.S. organizations that help immigrants to find work focus mostly on low-skill jobs, not high-skill ones. She named two other organizations that provide information for immigrants about high-skill jobs, Refugee Works and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

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