Immigrants Feel Most American in the Workplace

By Jim Byrne Jan 6, 2009
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The workplace is where immigrants to the United States feel the most American, according to a report by a government panel focused on immigrant assimilation.

Segregation in American society is lowest in the workplace. And when immigrants are asked where they feel the most American, they cite the workplace, says the report Building an Americanization Movement for the Twenty-First Century, produced by the Task Force on New Americans (TFNA), a federal interagency panel that supports immigrant assimilation programs. TFNA’s strategies supporting immigrant assimilation are:

Improving access to federal information and resources for new immigrants.

Encouraging volunteerism among U.S. citizens and newcomers.

Providing training and technical resources to organizations that serve immigrants.

Gathering input on successful immigrant integration practices.

The report says that because segregation of immigrants in American society is lowest in the workplace, private-sector investment into immigrant integration “benefits and develops a community as well as improves conditions for workers and provides additional benefits for employers.”

According to the report, “In many ways, the journey toward integration begins at the workplace.” Therefore, the government should encourage the private sector “to develop innovative new resources for immigrants using the latest information and mobile technology, refine training and development programs, and develop policies and messages that encourage integration at the workplace,” the study says.

In addition, the report urges private employers to take “meaningful steps” in assisting the assimilation of foreign-born employees, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services Office of Citizenship Chief Alfonso Aguilar said at a Dec. 18, 2008, news conference in Washington, D.C., at which the TFNA report was issued.

“Employers gain from the improved skills and education of their employees, and this is why integration should be considered as part of workplace development programs,” Aguilar told SHRM Online. Such workplace development programs will improve employee retention, he added.

An example of such a workplace development program is the Life Skills Education Program at Disney University, part of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., Aguilar said. The Walt Disney World Resort is the largest single-site employer in the United States, and at least 40 percent of its employees are foreign-born, he said. Disney University provides English as a Second Language courses for employees with limited English proficiency, and the university’s life skills education program provides adult basic education, pre-general educational development training, three levels of literacy training and a citizenship program that prepares employees for U.S. naturalization.

Additional Findings

From 2000 to 2004, one out of every seven workers was an immigrant, representing a 60 percent growth of the labor force during that period, the report says.

Moreover, during federal fiscal year 2007, the leading four countries of origin for most immigrants to the United States were Mexico, India, the Philippines and China. No European country was among the top 10.

Jim Byrne is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area who has extensive experience writing about federal small-business policy and health care.

Related Resource:

Task Force on New Americans, the report is available at the TFNA web site

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