Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Immigrant Integration, Part II

Long time, no blog. That's because we were busy in Europe wrapping up the US-Belgium Cultural Crossing exchange program this month, and then dealing with snow in Seattle.

Earlier this month, all US and Belgian participants of the program returned to Liege to discuss findings and experiences from our various trips across the US and Belgium.

Of particular interest was the European Union's official policy on immigrant integration, which surprisingly, the majority of Belgian practitioners of integration services were unaware of. As in the US, there seems to be a long way to go to get from the reality on the ground (what we see every day) and the goals of the policies. But it was heartening to hear from the primary author of the document, Iwona Piorko, on the last day in Brussels, the work that continues to be done to bridge the gap.

These principles, which had to be approved by all 27 member nations (a significant feat in itself), may provide a useful framework for our own discussions on immigration reform here in the US. Also useful may be the Handbook on Integration for Policy-makers and Practitioners which addresses services, civic participation as well as evaluation.

As we all struggle with the global economic downturn, trying to protect those immigrant services and programs we already have, we can use this time and the relationships built with our colleagues across the US and in Belgium to strategize how we may reconfigure or improve our programs to better meet the needs of immigrants in the future. Creating opportunities for immigrant success - that's what CISC is all about.

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