New York Prepares to Open Office Devoted to Immigrants

New York State will soon become the latest place to open an agency focused on immigrants, according to El Diario La Prensa.

In the coming months, the state will open the Office for New Americans, with 27 centers planned for around New York, the website said. The centers are expected to offer such things as English classes, immigration law consultations, naturalization preparation courses and workshops for entrepreneurs, according to state documents released last year.

The move comes a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the creation of such an office to address the needs of the state’s more than four million immigrants.

“We must live up to the promise of the Lady in our Harbor and ensure New York remains a land of opportunity for all,” said Cuomo in last year’s State of the State Address. “When new New orkers prosper, we all prosper. When they succeed, we all succeed.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures lists dozens of agencies around the country focused on immigrant and refugee outreach. They are in such diverse places as Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland and California – some are state-level, while others are part of the county or city government.

In announcing Chicago’s Office of New Americans, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: “Chicago’s vitality has been built on the strength of immigrant populations that have come to enjoy new freedoms and access new opportunities. I want to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.”

Immigration advocates say such efforts are important to helping to integrate immigrants.

“We’re seeing more of these,” said Mark Falzone, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. “This is really healthy from two perspectives – it’s better for immigrants to have one single place pulling together lots of services. And from a good government standpoint, it helps make sure that programs for immigrants are coordinated, that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, to avoid duplicating programs and to make sure there are no gaps.”

Falzone said his group, as well as other national immigrant advocacy groups, are calling for the White House to establish its own Office of New Americans.

"We hope it is part of any immigration reform bill," he said.