Taking integration to the heartland

Leya presenting
Attendees at the Replicable Integration Strategies from Faith Organizations session


Denzil Mohammed, director of The Immigrant Learning Center (ILC) Public Education Institute, traveled to the heartland of America to bring the latest immigration data and best immigrant integration practices to the 15th annual Cambio de Colores conference on June 10 in Columbia, MO.

Leya Speasmaker, Christina Pope and Denzil Mohammed

Denzil led a session titled “Replicable Integration Strategies from Faith Organizations” with co-presenters Leya Speasmaker of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) and Christina Pope of Welcoming America. He offered the latest demographic data on immigrants and refugees in the U.S. utilizing an asset-based approach to thwart stereotypes about immigrants and for participants to develop a more factual and constructive perspective on immigration.

Leya then outlined a range of successful integration practices from the nationwide CLINIC network of direct-service affiliates that can be adapted by organizations of any kind. These included “Coffee and Conversation” from Hogar Immigrant Services in Manassas, VA, where parishioners meet weekly with foreign-born students to learn more about each other, and the new identification card for undocumented immigrants in Greensboro, NC, launched by local government in collaboration with the police department and the FaithAction International House.

To help participants implement these ideas, Christina offered a detailed guide to engaging receiving communities through research-based messaging strategies. She emphasized that participants should avoid restating myths or using dividing language, create partnerships with various local stakeholders, and utilize positive, relatable messages that speak to shared values. You can see the full presentation slides here.

This was Denzil’s second Cambio de Colores conference presentation. In 2015, he led a session on “Immigrants as Assets: Framing the Discussion in Policy, Media and the Community.”

The three presenters were also part of the June 2, 2016, webinar Building United Communities: Integration Strategies from Faith Organizations hosted by The ILC Public Education Institute. Get resources and watch recordings from the webinar here.

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