Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good afternoon. My name is Eva Millona, and I am the President and CEO of the MIRA Coalition and a Co-Chair of the National Partnership for New Americans.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, our NIIC partners and the leadership committee, it is my distinct privilege to welcome you to the 13th annual National Immigrant Integration Conference. Thank you to each and every one of you for your attendance today.
I’m so delighted with the growth of NPNA’s signature event over the years. When we first came together in Chicago in 2008, there were only 125 of us. Last year in Detroit, we were 1,400 strong, from across the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Today, we have 2,500 participants from more than 738 organizations representing 48 states and seven countries. Please give a virtual hand to our amazing team, who, in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, got creative and organized our first ever digital NIIC. My deepest appreciation also to our excellent leadership committee of national and regional partners.
This year has been absolutely exhausting, and for far too many families, tragic. We are going into the holidays with millions of people struggling economically, many unsure if they’ll have a home in the new year, and so many still lacking basic protections from the virus they face every day on the job.
But if you’re like me, you also feel a bit lighter. Because after four years of relentless attacks on immigrants and refugees, we’re entering a new era. We have a chance to not only repair the damage, and heal from the trauma, but actually build back better.
That’s why it’s so exciting to be with you here, and to put our minds together through the rich, inspiring and provocative program that awaits us. As we played defense over the past four years, we innovated at the state level, and achieved some big successes. We pioneered some extraordinary programs for immigrant integration. And we developed a vision for a truly inclusive America, where each and every one of the 45 million foreign-born could claim their place and thrive.
Now it’s time to turn our ideas into a strategy to seize the opportunities of this new era.
That is why I’m so grateful to be with you today at the largest NIIC ever, at this pivotal moment for our country. As an immigrant myself, I was profoundly moved by Kamala Harris’ life story, and I was thrilled by her victory. She is a shining example of what is possible in this country – and of the enormous contributions of immigrants, refugees and their children. We are here today because we want EVERY New American to be able to dream this big for their children.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, to undo the damage of the past four years, and to start transforming immigration policies and programs, so they reflect our values, uplift people, and enable immigrants and refugees to fully contribute to this country. I’m optimistic about the Biden/Harris Administration. But I also know it’s up to us to keep pushing forward; nothing good comes easy.
Our ability to effect real change depends on our collective strength, ideas, resources and strategic relationships. That’s why we’re here, advocates, practitioners, policy makers, and business leaders, to strategize and then move forward together, for the next phase of NPNA and the next phase for our nation. I so look forward to our conversations.
It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce the new Executive Director of The National Partnership for New Americans, my tireless friend and colleague, Nicole Melaku.