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On the field and in the board room, let’s keep saying yes to the best.

Boston Celtics’ Center Al Horford from Dominican Republic and Washington Wizards’ Center Marcin Gortat from Poland. Photo by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

When the Boston Celtics want to find the best basketball players, they don’t just look in Boston, or Massachusetts or even the United States. That’s why, according to the Boston Business Journal, the third-highest compensated athlete in Boston is Celtics’ Center Al Horford from Dominican Republic and the seventh-highest is Celtics’ Point Guard and former NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving from Australia.

It’s not just the Celtics who rely on foreign-born talent. In fact, according to the same article, 36 percent of the top 25 highest-compensated athletes in Boston are foreign-born. They play for the Celtics, the Red Sox and the Bruins. This is hardly a Boston phenomenon. It’s an American phenomenon. A recent report from the Institute for Immigration Research found that while foreign-born individuals comprised 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, 25.4 percent of Major League Baseball players were foreign-born.

Of course, every team wants to hire the best possible players. When it comes time to score the winning point, fans love whoever can deliver results, regardless of where they are from. In the same way, every company wants to hire the best talent to deliver the best results and satisfy their customers. Just like the Celtics, America’s strength lies in giving people the chance to be the best they can be, regardless of where they are from. We retain this advantage as long as we continue to welcome newcomers.

Boston Bruins’ center who scored the winning goal at the 2011 Stanley Cup Patrice Bergeron is from Canada. Photo by By Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA, via Wikimedia Commons.

Understanding Immigrant Trauma


In order to understand immigrant trauma, it is necessary to understand acculturation. But what exactly is it? Clinical psychologist and director of the mental health counselling program at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education Dr. Usha Tummala-Narra describes psychological acculturation as “the dynamic process immigrants experience as they adapt to the new country.” For some immigrants, this process can be swift and easy, but for many immigrants acculturation can be extremely stressful. Factors that may contribute to this stress include language barriers, financial struggles, changing gender roles and downward social mobility in their adopted homeland.

In addition, this past year has seen a rise in acculturative stress for Dr. Tummala-Narra’s patients due to uncertainty surrounding immigration policy, and fear of deportation is noted as the presenting problem in many instances. In addition, some immigrants experience racism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment, and this discrimination can be a key cause of acculturative stress. It is therefore no wonder that immigrants of color experience higher levels of acculturative stress, or that many immigrants feel like they have to hide their ethnic identity.

When acculturative stress combined with prejudice strikes, immigrants are less likely to seek out mental health services, says Dr. Nadine Nakamura, of the University of La Verne in California. If they do seek out care, there are numerous barriers such as “difficulty finding transportation or child care and communication problems—not just language differences, but cultural nuances that a clinician might not recognize,” Dr. Nakamura writes.


Dr. Usha Tummala-Narra presents during the ILC Public Education Institute’s webinar
One Year Later: Immigrant Trauma and How to Deal with It.



Acculturative stress can be particularly difficult when the two cultures are in conflict. This is especially true for the 4.5 million citizen children who have undocumented parents. Dr. Tummala-Narra says that “first-generation immigrants may experience less psychological distress than second-generation immigrants.” American behavioral acculturation occurs rapidly for children, and Dr. Nakamura writes that “parents may feel that their children are becoming too American too fast, and children may feel their parents don’t understand them.”

Child and parent may have different expectations for the child’s autonomy and supervision, and children may view their parents as an obstacle in achieving their goals. While acculturation to American culture is “successful” in these cases, this success and overacculturation can lead to new levels of stress and intergenerational disagreements when the two cultures are in conflict with one another.

One solution to combat this stress is to ensure immigrants have consistent access to their “heritage” culture. While it is acculturation to the host culture that gives access to society and institutions for first-generation immigrants, it is the heritage culture that can provide access to cultural resources and support, as well as eliminate trauma. For second-generation immigrants and citizen children, familiarity with one’s heritage culture and native language can ease familial conflict and improve grades and literacy.

Ultimately, acculturative stress can be overcome if it is made clear that ethnic identity, which includes heritage culture and racial identity, and national (i.e. American) identity are not mutually exclusive and can successfully coexist.




Experts in psychology and social worked joined The Immigrant Learning Center Public Education Institute for a free webinar One Year Later: Immigrant Trauma and How to Deal with It on November 9, 2017, Click here to access recordings and slides from the webinar as well as a handy summary of how you can support immigrants facing uncertainty and trauma.


Building bridges instead of walls

Debra Wise, Underground Railway Theater Artistic Director; Denzil Mohammed, The ILC Public Education Institute Director; Judy Hikes; Mojdeh Rohani, Community Legal Services and Counselling Center Executive Director; and Tagesech Wabeto, Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Immigrant Services Liaison discuss the play Building the Wall.


On Oct. 16, 2017, the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA, hosted a reading of the play Building the Wall, by Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. The play presents a dystopian future in which fear of the other is allowed to overrule human rights and even basic human decency. The audience was left with a lot of thoughts and feelings to process after the gripping conclusion. Director of The ILC Public Education Institute Denzil Mohammed participated in a panel discussion following the reading to help make meaning of it all.

The one-act play consists of an interview between a history professor and an inmate accused of unthinkable horrors. At first, the conversation sounds like a debate you could easily observe today with the inmate making typical anti-immigrant arguments and the professor making common retorts. As the play progresses, the inmate reveals how, as the former warden of a detention center, he felt pressure to inflict progressively more injurious harms ending in atrocity.


“Theater can be a safe place for dangerous conversations.”

– Gifrants

Some audience members feared the “unthinkable” ending could be close to reality if fear-based prejudices are allowed to grow unchecked. In responding, Denzil first pointed out that the horrors depicted in the play were conducted out of the public eye and that most Americans in the play’s reality did not know about it until it was too late. In the same way, even though immigration is often in the news, most Americans in today’s reality don’t know that much about it. It is up to those of us who work with immigrants every day, who are knowledgeable of immigration laws and policy changes, and who research immigration to shed light on the issues.

Denzil also suggested that rather than relying on sound bites, it is important to be reminded of shared American values such as equal opportunity, basic human rights, compassion and shared prosperity. He concluded with, “Never miss a chance to stand up for someone or tell the real stories of immigrants.”

Framing Against Fear


Suggestions from the FrameWorks Institute’s Marisa Gerstein Pineau, PhD,
during the webinar Immigration, Safety and Security.



According to the Pew Research Center, for voters who supported the President in the 2016 election, the biggest issues facing the country were not jobs or the economy but illegal immigration and terrorism. These two issues are often conflated, yet the data tells a completely different story: the incarceration rate of undocumented immigrants is far lower than average, and the annual rate of being killed by foreign-born terrorism is less than 0.4 percent. Unfortunately, the facts are often not enough to change minds. If we truly want to change the immigration conversation, we must frame facts in a context that resonates with the listener and avoid phrases that have negative associations.

Framing messages puts an idea into context for fuller understanding and gives the speaker power to shift the conversation. Different frames can apply depending on the audience in order to find common ground. Stories of immigrants, for example, can be framed as an American story appealing to common values creating a feeling of unity rather than otherness. Every communication is more effective with thoughtful framing, even messages on social media with limited word counts. Retweeting or reposting a myth to refute it is tempting, one pager pic but repeating misinformation perpetuates the idea and strengthens false associations. Instead, project the truth in the positive form. For example, a post saying “Immigrants are criminals” can be corrected with “Immigrants have significantly lower incarceration rates and make outsized contributions to our communities.”

Experts in research, advocacy, law enforcement and framing joined The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute for a free webinar on Immigration, Safety and Security on October 4, 2017, to show how to change the conversation on immigrants, refugees and Americans’ safety. Click here to access recordings and slides from the webinar as well as a handy webinar summary.

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Twenty-five years, 25 countries

Students and staff at The Immigrant Learning Center really are a global community right here in Malden, MA. Since the founding 25 years ago, the school has served students from 118 countries. In honor of the 25th anniversary, here is a list of the top 25 countries of origin for The ILC students.


1. Haiti 10. Ethiopia 19. Iran
2. China 12. India 22. Mexico
3. Morocco 13. Ukraine 23. Nepal
4. Brazil 14. Albania 24. Congo
5. El Salvador 15. Peru 24. Egypt
6. Vietnam 16. Guatemala
7. Russia 17. Dominican Republic
8. Colombia 18. Hong Kong
9. Turkey 19. Cameroon
10. Algeria 19. Honduras

Here’s a beautiful expression of all this diversity from our annual International Day celebration.

Tips for teachers to change the immigration conversation


Denzil Mohammed of The ILC Public Education Institute presents “Immigrants: Stats & Strategies to Change the Conversation” at the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education’s NETWORK 2017 Conference.


Adult educators looking to retake the immigration narrative got proven strategies from The ILC Public Education Institute’s Denzil Mohammed. At the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education’s NETWORK 2017 Conference in Marlborough, MA, on May 12, 2017, Denzil equipped teachers and administrators with “Stats and Strategies to Change the Immigration Conversation.”

Using findings from The FrameWorks Institute and The Opportunity Agenda revealed in the Institute’s February 23 webinar, Taking Back the Narrative, Denzil outlined research-based strategies for talking about immigration that educators can employ in and outside the classroom:

  • To promote a new narrative, always start with the facts and don’t repeat the myths when refuting them.
  • It is imperative that we frame immigration in terms of American values, such as shared prosperity or humanitarianism.
  • Offer pragmatic solutions to perceived problems and emphasize how other options are impractical.

When asked whether changing the conversation was feasible given the repeated rhetoric in the national immigration discussion, Denzil explained that countering the narrative will require a sustained approach rather than just one conversation. For more messaging strategies and techniques, see:


Immigrant entrepreneurs creating jobs

Immigrant entrepreneurs are job creators and innovators. The five nominees for The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards in the Business Growth category increased their number of full-time-equivalent employees by 40 to 388 percent over the past three years.

Vijay Nalamada
Avco Consulting, Worcester
from India

Vijay Nalamada is the CEO and founder of Avco Consulting, Inc. Since 1999, Avco has been providing IT consulting and software solutions and development. The company serves Fortune 500 clients in banking, finance and insurance, life science, retail, and high-tech industries. From 2013 to 2016 he has grown employment by 40 percent to 350 full-time-equivalent employees. Nalamada and the company also co-sponsor the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) “Cricket for a Cause” tournament that raises funds for projects ranging from residential hostels for boys and girls to hospitals to vocational training centers empowering underprivileged women in India.


US Bedding Inc., Fall River
from Vietnam

David Nguyen is a refugee from Vietnam who came to the United States at age 19 without money or knowledge of English. Working menial jobs, he managed to support his family while saving enough money to realize his dream of owning his own manufacturing business in 2002. Today, his company produces mattresses and pillows for retail sale and institutional use in a rehabilitated factory in Fall River. US Bedding Inc. is a major supplier for Costco and other national retailers and for My Pillow, Inc. for which they produce more than 4,000 pillows per day. His workforce has grown 166 percent in the last three years with a commitment to hire unemployed and under-employed workers from the lagging textile industry in the Fall River area. Nguyen is now actively planning a second facility devoted entirely to the production of institutional bedding, which will employ between one and 200 workers when fully staffed.


Daniel Perez
DPV Transportation Worldwide, East Boston
from Colombia

Daniel Perez is a self-funded and self-taught entrepreneur. He moved to the U.S. at age 11 and at 17 started DPV Transportation Worldwide, a luxury ground transportation services business in East Boston. Through grit and determination, even in the face of increasing competition from ride-hailing services, he has grown the company into a nearly $3-million-per-year business. His success has also meant more jobs for the local community. In the last three years alone, he has increased employment at DPV by 60 percent.


Jose de la Rosa
Guardian Healthcare, Jamaica Plain
from Dominican Republic

Jose de la Rosa came to Boston in 1989 and worked his way through school, earning a degree in finance despite knowing very little English. His wife, Zoraida de la Rosa, was a nurse who noticed a gap in services offered in home health care. To address this, De la Rosa and his wife founded Guardian Healthcare in 2008 with just three employees. In the last three years, employment has more than doubled to nearly 300 full-time-equivalent employees. The company has expanded from its original office in Jamaica Plain to additional offices in Springfield, Lawrence and Brockton and added a new division, Family Caregivers, to help family members care for young disabled individuals and the elderly at home. With more than 80,000 home visits to date, Guardian has provided much-needed linguistically- and culturally-competent care to elderly and disabled adults throughout the state of Massachusetts. De la Rosa often gets invited to speak about health concerns at community events and has been selected by the Association of Latino Professionals for America to receive its Excellence in Service to the Community Award.


Amir Shiranian
Amelia’s Taqueria, Inc., Boston
from Iran

Amir Shiranian’s father and grandfather were rug merchants in Iran. Naturally, when he decided to settle in Boston after attending college here, Shiranian opened a rug store. He owned and operated The Persian Gallery from 1999-2004 before he reopened as the Medallion Gallery in 2006 on Boylston Street.  His early experience in the restaurant business while working his way through college and his passion for creating jobs led him to open a restaurant. He now has two locations for Amelia’s Taqueria employing 40 people and plans to open his third in Cleveland Circle in the spring. Shiranian’s restaurants are actively involved in the community, hosting eight to 10 fundraising events per month, mostly affiliated with a group or department at Northeastern University.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs on the Cape

Immigrant entrepreneurs are making their mark across Massachusetts, and Cape Cod is no exception. As this year’s nominees for show, the Cape is benefiting from the entrepreneurial spark of its immigrant residents.

Jitka BorowickJitka Borowick
Cleangreen, Inc., Barnstable
from Czech Republic
Category: Neighborhood Business

Jitka Borowick came to the U.S. in 2003 from the Czech Republic to further her education. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she decided to pursue her dream of starting her own business and doing something positive for the environment. In 2008, she opened Cleangreen, a natural cleaning company, out of her home. Today, Cleangreen is a Cape and Islands Green Verified business with an office in Barnstable, four cars and a crew of 19 people covering residential and commercial clients throughout Cape Cod.

Through Cleangreen, Borowick donates funds and in-kind services to many local organizations, including the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance, Cape Cod Charitable Fundraisers, Calmer Choice, John. F. Kennedy Museum, Cape and Island United Way, Flower Angels USA, and Hyannis Rotary Club. She was awarded “40 Under 40” from Cape & Plymouth Business, recognized as one of 10 Inspiring Women by Cape Cod Magazine and awarded Business Woman of the Year in 2015 from Cape & Plymouth Business.

Harley Silva

Harley croppedCape Cod Marble & Granite, Inc., Hyannis
from Brazil
Category: Neighborhood Business

Harley Silva started Cape Cod Marble & Granite, Inc. in 2005 by himself in a small, rented room. Little by little he grew the company into the largest fabricator on the Cape. Cape Cod Marble & Granite serves not only the Cape but the Islands and eastern Massachusetts as well. Silva also invests in the community. He is a member of the CCYP Mentors Program and Giving Circle, participates in the Hyannis Rotary through the Home & Garden Show, belongs to the Home Builders & Remodeling Association of Cape Cod, as well as the Massachusetts Masons Fraternal Lodge A.F. & A.M. He also supports the Barnstable Police Patrolmen’s Union and the Massachusetts Environmental and Nantucket High School fundraisers.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Cambridge

Cambridge is a hub of innovation not just for Massachusetts but for the country as a whole. From world-renowned Universities to industry powerhouses to cutting-edge start-ups, Cambridge wouldn’t be Cambridge without immigrants. The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards nominees from Cambridge are outstanding examples.


Albaiti croppedAhmed Albaiti
Medullan Inc., Cambridge
from Tanzania
Category: High-Tech Business

Ahmed Albaiti is the founder of Medullan, Inc., a digital health firm that delivers innovative, patient-centric solutions for the major players in healthcare such as Illumina, Humana, Mass General Hospital and Aetna. Medullan works with payer, life sciences and pharmaceutical clients to build solutions that create measurable business value and positive impact in the lives of their customers. Recent projects have included a care coordination platform, a tool for communicating genetic health information and the world’s first wellness platform to fully integrate first and third party data. Since its inception in 2005, Medullan has been awarded the Boston Business Journal’s Pacesetter award five times.


Johannes Fruehauf Johannes Fruehauf
BioLabs, Cambridge
from Germany
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Johannes Fruehauf is founder, president and CEO of BioLabs Cambridge and the BioLabs network. BioLabs builds and operates premium co-working laboratory facilities around the country, designed specifically for science-based startups to help them go further, faster on limited capital investment. Dr. Fruehauf is also co-founder and president of a nonprofit subsidiary, LabCentral, (part of the BioLabs network). This business model reduces the capital needs for startup biotech companies by a factor of 10 to 20 times, allowing startups to focus precious resources on advancing their science and building their companies. Since opening, more than 150 companies have been created at Biolabs and LabCentral, and they have raised more than $1 billion in venture capital, grants and other sources of funding to further their research and commercialization goals. Dr. Fruehauf is also a co-founder and general partner at BioInnovation Capital, a seed- and early-stage venture fund investing in biotech and life-sciences opportunities and a member of the New England Venture Capital Association board of directors.


Olle croppedBernat Olle
Vedanta Biosciences, Cambridge
from Spain
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Bernat Olle is the co-founder and CEO of Vedanta Biosciences. The company is developing a new class of drugs that work by modulating the human microbiome, which is increasingly recognized as a key factor in autoimmune, metabolic and infectious diseases. Vedanta has generated a pipeline of drug candidates including a candidate in inflammatory bowel diseases licensed to Johnson & Johnson in 2015 in the largest deal in the microbiome space to date by a pharmaceutical company. The drug is now being brought into clinical trials for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A second Vedanta drug candidate is starting clinical trials in 2017 for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infections.

In 2013, Dr. Olle was named “Innovator of the Year” in MIT Technology Review, Spain’s “Innovators under 35” awards, and in 2015, he was awarded the Princess of Girona business award by the King of Spain. He is also a venture partner at PureTech Health, a Boston-based venture group where he has been a member of the founding teams of several companies.


ParayilAjikumar Parayil
Manus Bio, Cambridge
from India
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Ajikumar Parayil is an entrepreneurial scientist who has co-founded multiple companies, including Mirakel Technologies, an innovative start up in hair care and cosmetics and Manus Biosynthesis (Manus Bio), a world leader in the production of plant-based natural ingredients through advanced fermentation technologies. Dr. Parayil is an inventor on more than 20 U.S. and international patents. The foundational elements for Manus Bio’s technology was developed by Dr. Parayil during his tenure at MIT. The first products in Manus Bio’s pipeline have been developed with over $25 million in customer R&D funding to date and are nearing commercialization with an addressable market of more than $7 billion.



VennaNagarjuna Venna
Bitsight, Cambridge
from India
Category: High-Tech Business

Nagarjuna Venna founded his first company, Saperix, in 2010 and sold it to Firemon in 2011. He got to work quickly and co-founded Bitsight later that same year. BitSight provides evidence-based ratings of security effectiveness to help organizations manage their security risk and the risks posed by third parties to more than 650 customers worldwide.

Venna has effectively created a new cybersecurity market, which information technology research and advisory firm Gartner termed “Security Rating Services (SRS).” The importance of cybersecurity ratings is so great that, according to Gartner, by 2022 SRS will become as important as credit rating services when assessing business partnerships for risk and viability. In 2016, Bitsight was selected by Forbes as one of 25 companies on its Next Billion Dollar Startup list.

High-Tech Business nominees for The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Immigrants are a critical part of the innovation economy. The first three nominations for this year’s ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards in High-Tech Business are living proof.

See details on how to nominate by the March 10 deadline here.

Lingping Gao
NetBrain, Burlington
from China

GaoAs a network engineer, Lingping Gao spent years managing enterprise networks and was frustrated by the tedious, manual nature of the work and the high cost of failure (a network outage can cost up to $200,000 an hour). In 2004, he founded NetBrain to automate critical network tasks and free up engineers to focus on more important and challenging work. By doing so, Gao not only helped companies save time and money, he created a whole new market.

NetBrain has become a global player with 350 employees in offices in China, Germany and California, in addition to its headquarters in Burlington, Mass. More than 1,500 of the world’s largest enterprises and managed services providers, including Microsoft, Santander and British Telecom, use NetBrain.


Luis Pedroso
Accutronics, Inc., Chelmsford
from Portugal

AccutronicsIn 1984, at the age of 24, Luis Pedroso founded his first company, Qualitronics, Inc., with three employees. He grew it to 165 employees by 2000 when it was sold to MSL. In 2004, he co-founded Accutronics. Both are contract electronics manufacturers that provide high-tech manufacturing capabilities to companies from start-ups to the Fortune 500. Pedroso is responsible for the creation of hundreds of jobs and the launch of countless new products.

Pedroso is both generous and proud of his heritage. He co-founded the Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research at UMass Lowell, is the largest private donor to the Helio and Amelia Pedroso Endowed Chair in Portuguese Studies at UMass Dartmouth, and created the Portuguese American Scholarship Fund to serve students of Portuguese heritage at Lowell High School. He is a trustee of Theodore Edson Parker Foundation and Circle Health/Lowell General Hospital and has served as president of The Greater Lowell Community Foundation.


Nagarjuna Venna
Bitsight, Cambridge
from India

VennaNagarjuna Venna founded his first company, Saperix, in 2010 and sold it to Firemon in 2011. He got to work quickly and co-founded Bitsight later that same year. BitSight provides evidence-based ratings of security effectiveness to help organizations manage their security risk and the risks posed by third parties to more than 650 customers worldwide.

Venna has effectively created a new cybersecurity market, which information technology research and advisory firm Gartner termed “Security Rating Services (SRS).” The importance of cybersecurity ratings is so great that, according to Gartner, by 2022 SRS will become as important as credit rating services when assessing business partnerships for risk and viability. In 2016, Bitsight was selected by Forbes as one of 25 companies on its Next Billion Dollar Startup list.

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