Congresswoman Grace Meng and her colleagues in the House of Representatives introduced a new legislation on Jan. 28 that would help immigrants and refugees acclimate to life in America.
The National Office of New Americans Act would establish an office within the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to help immigrants and refugees obtain employment, assist with language access and civic engagement, and attain citizenship.
The bill comes as President Biden seeks to overhaul the nation’s immigration system creating a pathway to citizenship for roughly 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“Immigrants make indelible contributions to our nation, and it is long past time that we create an entity in the Executive Office of the President that ensures our country is welcoming and helpful toward those who come to our shores,” Meng said. “While we aspire to be a beacon of hope and opportunity, we must match words with deed. We cannot allow immigrants to be treated as an afterthought; we must ensure their path to becoming ‘new Americans’ is clear and well resourced.”
The bill would ensure a welcoming and inclusive system for all new Americans, Meng said, after the previous administration for the last four years “demonized, criminalized, and dehumanized” immigrants and refugees at every turn.
Meng is joined by her colleagues representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), who both immigrated to the U.S. in search of better opportunities.
“As someone who came to the United States alone at the age of 16 and later founded Washington state’s largest immigrant rights organization, I know just how important it is to provide our newest Americans with valuable resources and helpful tools as they integrate in their communities,” said Jayapal, who helped create the Office of immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
When his family arrived in the U.S., Garcia said they were welcomed into a community and provided services enabling them to make America their home.
“I am hopeful for a future where immigrants are fully included in the social and economic fabric of our diverse nation. Achieving these ideals goes beyond providing legal status or citizenship — it includes ensuring immigrants can achieve the dignity of work, livable wages, and access to affordable health care and education,” Garcia said.
Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), who said the U.S. has a moral obligation to provide “safety, dignity, and opportunity” to the immigrants and new Americans who enrich the nation, will introduce the same measure in the Senate.
“Sadly, during the pandemic, our immigrant neighbors were first to get sick as essential workers but last to get the health care they needed. The National Office of New Americans will create a welcoming and inclusive system for our new Americans, and provide the support and resources they need in order to fully thrive in the United States,” Markey said. “This is our opportunity to create a more humane and just immigration system that sees the dignity in all those who hope to make the United States home.”
Representatives of organizations serving immigrants in New York City applauded the lawmakers’ efforts.
“There are 45 million immigrants who are an essential part of the fabric of communities across this country, and it is frankly way overdue that the White House have an office dedicated to our particular needs,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, the largest progressive grassroots immigrant-led organization in New York state. “We’re excited to support Reps. Meng’s, Jayapal’s, García’s, and Senator Markey’s important new legislation to create a National Office of New Americans and work with them and our allies across the country to make it a reality.”
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, an organization working to advance the civic voice of Asian Americans in the New York metropolitan area, echoed Valdez’s sentiments.
“The Asian American Federation is excited by the National Office of New Americans, which will support all immigrants who land on our shores,” Yoo said. “After four years of assault under an anti-immigrant administration, we have the opportunity to reimagine how we offer, welcome and support to our immigrant neighbors. As we emerge out of the pandemic with a new Administration that recognizes the importance of immigrants and our contributions, we must rebuild our country by acknowledging the role of immigrants and offering support so that newcomers can succeed in every way they imagine possible.”
The National Office of New Americans Act is endorsed by over 100 organizations. The legislation is a standalone measure from the New Deal for New Americans Act that was introduced in the last Congress.
Original co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate include Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).