MIRA Launches Integration Institute

10/21/2011 BOSTON "This is an important step forward not only for the immigrant community but for the WHOLE community," Governor Deval Patrick said this afternoon before a room  packed with press, philanthropists, and non-profit leaders, who gathered at the the Boston Foundation to launch the privately funded New Americans Integration Institute and for the public proclamation of Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month.

The two announcements were tied together by a common theme--the importance of supporting the central role of immigrants to the economic and cultural richness of the Commonwealth and the nation.

Paul Grogan, President of The Boston Foundation, opened the event by stressing the Foundation's nearly century-long commitment to "opening opportunities for the newly arrived." The  Foundation's support today made possible the launch of the New Americans Integration Institute, a think-tank combining research and direct, on-the-ground work to improve the integration of the foreign-born. Nearly a quarter century ago, the Foundation's support also helped launch the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, MIRA, a non-profit coalition that will now house the Integration Institute.

"The New Americans Integration Institute offers a bold new chance to further the story of immigrants' success," said Eva Millona, Executive Director at MIRA. "It's a story that is central to the American story, but that too often has been lost in the current troubled cultural, political and economic climate."

In her remarks, Ms. Millona outlined the Institute's goals. In part, it will disseminate information about the vital role played by the foreign-born in Massachusetts. But it will also facilitate further success by encouraging and facilitating entrepreneurship, professional credentialing, naturalization, English acquisition, and more, offering a clearing house of information and support for foreign and native-born residents alike.

Ms. Millona then introduced Governor Deval Patrick and thanked him for his leadership on furthering immigrant integration. The Governor reiterated his support, noting "immigrants are a part of our community, and we have to be about successfully integrating that part of our community."

The public declaration of Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month will include events stretching from today until mid-November. In a state in which 30% of the biotech start-ups include an immigrant partner, the Proclamation opens by honoring the fact that "immigrant entrepreneurship is vital to the economic growth, wealth and job creation in the Commonwealth."

Following remarks by Josiane Martinez, Executive Director of the State Office of Refugees and Immigrants, and Marcia Hohn, Director of the Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, three immigrant entrepreneurs then spoke about their personal experiences and the experiences of so many fellow immigrant businessmen and women.

"We expect no handouts," said Jill Cheng, Owner of Cheng & Tsui Publishers. "What this country provides immigrants is the opportunity in a stable and peaceful environment to pursue whatever their hard work can earn them."

Vinit Nijhawan, high-tech entrepreneur and Executive in Residence at Boston University, stressed the challenges immigrants face in staying here to pursue start-up businesses, while at the same time noting some of the multi-billion dollar business that have provided thousands of jobs to the Commonwealth's immigrant and native-born residents alike.

And Javier Marin, co-owner of WCEA MASTV-Cuenca Vision, simply stressed in plain language the bravery required to forge ahead in a time of economic troubles and rising anti-immigrant sentiment. "I salute the governor for making this important proclamation," he said, echoing the sentiment of all the speakers, whose joint purpose is to spread this welcoming sentiment throughout the Commonwealth and nation.

Press and audience at The Boston Foundation