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NLC launches initiative to help cities integrate immigrants into their communities.

The challenges of integrating immigrants into the social and economic life of the U.S. are often debated nationally, but the consequences of immigration are most intensely felt at the local level, leaving many city officials looking for ways to create a smooth transition for those who have migrated from another country.

To assist cities and towns in integrating immigrants into theft communities, NLC launched the Immigrant Integration Program, a new project that will develop learning networks of city officials and staff, circulate information on successful city programs, provide training and education assistance and help municipal governments promote naturalization and civic participation. The program will be flee to participating cities.

Created in a partnership between NLC and the Knight Foundation, the initiative will help eligible immigrants become fully active participants in the civic and social life of theft communities, according to Ricardo Gambetta, manager of inclusive communities programs for NLC. The approach aims to recognize immigrants as key participants in communities.

"Right now cities are facing immigration issues every day at the local level," said Gambetta. "We want to help mayors and other city officials by giving them special tools and recourses on how to deal with immigration issues, The goal is to try to assimilate and integrate immigrants into communities."

The objective of the program is to maximize the economic, social and cultural benefits of the immigrant integration on cities and towns across America, Gambetta explained. To help do so, the program will address two areas: immigrant integration and naturalization and civic participation.

In the area of immigrant integration, training and resources will be provided for city officials to learn how to bring theft communities together inclusively. The main focus in this area is mentoring dries.

The second area, naturalization and civic participation, will consist of increasing the number of immigrants who become U.S. citizens by engaging city officials and launching campaigns using brochures, resource guides, videos, public service announcements and posters.

In the next few months, NLC will further develop the Immigrant Integration Program. In the meantime, NLC encourages cities with successful immigration integration programs to share their best practices,

"We strongly believe that cities and towns could play an important active role in the development and implementation of this great NLC initiative," said Gambetta.

Also pertaining to its role in addressing immigration issues, NLC has made immigration reform one of its five legislative priorities for the year due to a lack of a coherent and consistent federal immigration policy that continues to pose a serious challenge to municipalities, such as escalating impacts on local budgets, service delivery and community life.

NLC requests that Congress enact comprehensive immigration reform that addresses border security and interior enforcement; workplace enforcement; guest workers; legalization of undocumented workers currently in the U.S.; and necessary service delivery. It also requests Congress provide federal funds to help communities integrate new residents into their communities

As part of its lobbying efforts, NLC is taking the following messages to Congress:

* Immigration reform must occur in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner that focuses on the creation of economic opportunities, strengthens families and communities:

* NLC supports the establishment of a process whereby undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. may earn legalized status through payment of appropriate fees and back taxes and other reasonable requirements;

* The federal government must improve the enforcement of its immigration laws and local law enforcement officers should not be mandated to enforce civil enforcement laws that raise constitutional questions and divert local personnel from their primary public safety duties:

* The federal government should not require local law enforcement personnel to detain criminal aliens without sufficient reimbursement and Congress should increase funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program to provide communities with the necessary resources they need to detain criminals; and

* NLC supports an efficient program that enables businesses to hire foreign workers and meet local economic demands.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 bill was discussed in the 110th United States Congress, but it is unlikely that Congress will continue to debate immigration reform until next year.

Details: For more information on NLC's immigration integration initiative, contact Ricardo Gambetta at (202) 626-3153 or gambetta@nlc.org. To learn more about NLC's legislative priorities, visit www.nlc.org.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Duvall, Cherie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 23, 2008
Words:708
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