The American Dream had drawn people to its shores since before it was a country, even before it was America. It has long been a beacon of hope and a land of opportunity. Indeed, much of America’s success and advancement can be attributed to the stability of our republic and the innovation and vitality of its people.
And this success as a nation of immigrants has been rooted in our ability to integrate its newcomers into our country’s social, economic, and cultural fabric. Unfortunately, our country’s history with immigrants has not always been the most welcoming. It has gone through cycles that welcomed immigrant labor, but not immigrants.
In this current cycle, the pendulum is again swinging in a direction where immigrants are seen as threats and dependencies. This damaging narrative increasingly positions immigrants, especially immigrants of color, as competition for jobs, drains on our social services, and actors of bad intent.
But for those who understand the global world we live in today; these newcomers are viewed as valuable assets. They bring new energy and innovation to our businesses, a new workforce for our critical industries, economic drivers for our economy, and culturally competent global talent and leadership.
Virginia has embraced this understanding and urgency. Last year, the General Assembly created the Office of New Americans and the Office of New Americans Advisory Board. The office is tasked with supporting our immigrant refugee communities through the services provided by our state and localities. The board’s purpose is to advise the Governor, cabinet members, and the General Assembly on strategies to improve state policies and programs to support the economic, linguistic, and civic integration of new Americans throughout the Commonwealth.
The legislators who sponsored the legislation, Delegate Kathy Tran from Springfield and Senator Ghazala Hashmi from Chesterfield, understand that these conversations are about talent acquisition and retention. Our state and country need the constant infusion of new energy that will allow us to think globally, not just locally. That’s why it is so important to honor the immigrant heritages, especially during Immigrant Heritage Month. They have brought us to where we are today, as well as those that will take us into the future.
LMR Class of 2006
The Office of New Americans Advisory Board Chair