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Pennsylvania State Senate
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: September 12, 2017 12:10 PM
From: Senator Sharif Street
To: All Senate members
Subject: Office of New Americans
 
In the near future I will introduce legislation that will provide for the creation of an Office of New Americans within the Department of Community and Economic Development. The office will be instructed to help attract, retain, and integrate immigrants into Pennsylvania society. Immigrants provide an important source of energy, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity, and I believe that Pennsylvania can do more to be competitive in attracting and keeping this pool of talent.

Immigrants face many challenges when they move to a new country, in addition to attaining citizenship. These can be as simple as earning a drivers license, or as complicated as receiving certification or licensure from the appropriate state oversight board for their profession. Learning or perfecting English, finding health care solutions, and moving into new homes, neighborhoods, and school districts all provide challenges that can be resolved with a little coordination from state government and local immigrant assistance organizations, such as the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and Vibrant Pittsburgh.

The legislation will instruct the Office to provide internal coordination of services that commonly affect the lives of immigrants, to promote the state abroad to attract skilled workers, and once here, to help integrate immigrants into their local communities. The duties will include:
  1. Responding to inquiries from state agencies, the media, immigrant-serving organizations, and the public about immigration issues in Pennsylvania.
  2. Serve as point of contact for state licensing boards and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
  3. Serve as a clearinghouse of information for state agencies on immigration-related policy issues, and coordinate among agencies as appropriate.
  4. Develop strategies to attract, retain, and incorporate immigrants into Pennsylvania.
  5. Convene stakeholders in business development and international trade promotion programs to increase their capacity to draw on immigrant contributors.
  6. Convene municipal officials to boost peer learning on immigration possibilities among third-class cities struggling with population loss and economic decline.
  7. Convene colleges and universities to foster learning about strategies for immigrant and international student retention.

The legislation will also create the Advisory Board to the Office of New Americans that will provide advice to the Governor and the office on how to best attract, retain, and integrate immigrants. The office will be composed of key department secretaries, or their designees, and individuals from several non-governmental sectors with expertise on immigration policy. The Board will be composed of 20 members appointed by the Governor.

I hope that you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation. If you have questions, please contact my Policy Director, Micah Mahjoubian at mmahjoubian@pasenate.com.



Introduced as SB1216