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Conference for immigrants encourages involvement

The immigration battle has traditionally been fought over who would be permitted to have legal status. However, a November conference in Miami hosted by the Florida Immigrant Coalition shifted the immigration focus from enacting regulations for individuals to helping new arrivals transition to life in this nation, no matter their status. The conference brought 600 participants together in an effort to help people succeed in their respective communities.

While immigration reform was not expected to move forward in 2013, the lack of progress by Congress was seen as an opportunity to help immigrants become more involved in their communities. The diverse group at the conference included a former Burundi government official, African doctors and lawyers and numerous national attendees.

One woman represented High Point, North Carolina, which has been recognized as an immigrant-friendly location. She was recently awarded an honor by the White House because of her efforts to improve conditions for foreigners. Other cities that are part of the "Welcoming Cities" program include Atlanta and Nashville. One representative from Nashville explained how his city has improved financially after it stopped efforts to pass an English-only law. The change in its attitude towards immigrants has in turn stimulated its economy by attracting new companies and investors. Another theme of the conference was labor rights as the U.S. Secretary of Labor encouraged immigrants to know the workplace laws about safety so that employers don't take advantage of them.

The conference showed that there is much more to immigration reform than the dispute over proposed legislation. The impact that immigration can have on issues such as housing and employment discrimination will continue to be a topic to consider.

Source: Miami Herald, "Hundreds of immigrant advocates gather in Miami", Laura Wides-Munoz, November 18, 2013

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