Playing the long game

Crossing partisan lines, citizens seek ways to help address the needs of migrants — especially children. The situation at the U.S.-Mexico border demands immediate and short-term response. However, these short-term emergency measures will always be necessary without permanent change in accepting our collective responsibility to address a flawed system.

Immigrant integration efforts should be a primary component of any organization’s long-term strategy to serve its community. CLINIC’s Center for Immigrant Integration has adopted the definition used by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, or GCIR, describing it as “a dynamic, two-way process in which newcomers and the receiving society work together to build secure, vibrant and cohesive communities.” Effective integration efforts focus on building connections between community members. The potential for long-term change exists within these community connections.

CLINIC’s Center for Immigrant Integration has over 60 examples of successful immigrant integration initiatives. Efforts creating long-term change at the local level share the following characteristics:

  • The community — including newcomers and the receiving community — has given input about what services are needed and desired.
  • Staff, clients and the community believe the program to be necessary and worthwhile.
  • The program has adequate resources to succeed, including sufficient funding and devoted staff time.
  • The project has doable and realistic goals and objectives.
  • A measurement and evaluation plan is in place before project implementation.

Immigrant integration initiatives change communities by bringing members from different backgrounds together to work towards a common goal. These four projects represent the types of efforts an organization can take to foster inclusive communities.

  • The Catholic Accompaniment and Reflection Experience program — a pilot project located at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services — connects Catholic members with their new neighbors to provide support as they integrate into the community.
  • Catholic Charities Diocese of Pueblo’s work with the city of Pueblo increases cooperation and addresses integration challenges in the community.
  • FaithAction International House hosted Multicultural Thanksgiving, an event filled with singing, dancing and delicious foods that represent different countries and cultures.
  • Catholic and business communities in Dallas have come together to #BeGolden, a campaign offered by Catholic Charities of Dallas that encourages neighbors of all backgrounds to embrace one another and ‘walk in each other’s shoes.’

Immigrant integration begins at the local level. Community members need opportunities to engage with neighbors on efforts that are mutually beneficial. Change is incremental and, therefore, slow. But it is only by playing the long game that temporary change becomes permanent.