New Brief: What funders can do to support immigrant skill building

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, December 15, 2015

In the Meantime, a new brief from National Skills Coalition, lays out a variety of options for funders interested in supporting immigrant skill building. The brief responds to the question: What can funders do while immigration legislation is stalled in Congress and the proposed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program is tied up in court?

The brief outlines three domains in which funders can act:

  • Direct services to people, include those with a range of different types of immigration status.
  • Immigrant-serving programs, including activities such as program development and replication, technical assistance, peer learning, and capacity building. This category also includes field-building activities such as research and evaluation.
  • Mechanisms to scale and sustain effective programs through skills policy at the federal, state, and local levels. This category includes policy analysis and development, coalition building, and advocacy strategies.

Specific examples of activities in each of these domains are provided, illustrating how funders can help to ensure that immigrant workers are prepared for any future immigration legislation or administrative action, as well gaining the skills they need for economic advancement today. 

In the Meantime is being released at a time of almost unprecedented levels of public debate on immigration issues. Yet much of the conversation focuses on immigration policy – that is, who may be admitted to the United States and under what circumstances – rather than the immigrant integration policies that are crucial to longer-term economic and social vitality. 

While the US has traditionally practiced a hands-off approach to immigrant integration, recent years have seen a growing awareness that purposeful, effective integration policies can do much to facilitate the success of individual immigrants and the American communities in which they reside.  In particular, skills-focused policies – whether English language acquisition, integrated education and training, or assistance with re-credentialing – can be a powerful tool for facilitating immigrant contributions.

The stakes are high: There are more than 41 million immigrants in the US today, comprising 13 percent of the total US population, and a full 17 percent of the workforce. Approximately 1 in 4 immigrants is unauthorized, while the remainder are divided among those who are naturalized US citizens, permanent residents, and those with another type of status (such as refugees and asylum-seekers).

In the Meantime provides a roadmap for funders and other stakeholders who are eager to learn how they can respond to this changing landscape, and ensure that immigrant workers are equipped with the English and other skills they need to be full participants in American communities.