Overcoming Stigma: Important Ingredients for Immigrant Integration

Nov 1, 2007
This report stems from the discussions held under Migration Learning Community (MLC) initiative that took place in September 2006. Sponsored by The Atlantic Philanthropies, this project brought together immigrant community activists, foundations and other policy practitioners in a European tour that took place in Brussels, Berlin and London. The tour consisted of a range of roundtables, political briefings and a number of site visits across the three cities.
  • An essential area of learning is how to shape messages for specific frameworks and audiences (such as policymakers, grassroots groups, general community, and conservative groups). Such learning must build on existing base of practice.
  • There is a need to link migration issues to components that are viewed positively/sympathetically in the debate (such as high skilled immigration and youth issues)
  • It is important to create a message that is proactive and not reactive.
  • There needs to be an awareness of the side effects of arguments, in consideration of a larger strategy.
  • Looking to the future, the Migration Learning Community was interested in finding messaging that was applicable to more than one area, especially in connecting to human rights. Examples given by participants included the recommendation that NGOs in Europe should examine whether the Human Rights framework continues to be the most effective manner in which to frame their message, and conversely, US organizations should examine whether their message has shifted too far from a discussion based on human rights. For instance, little attention is brought to the abuses that occur in countries that the US deports migrants to.
  • NGOs should develop common messages and campaigns for regularization and integration and establish partner organizations across the Atlantic.
  • Building coalitions was seen as the key to the success of advocacy and lobbying strategies, and therefore essential, however difficult it may be.
  • There is a need to develop links between local grassroots organizations and national activists, between local groups with different backgrounds, and a frame of mind that was open to building unlikely alliances with strange bedfellows if they advance the overall goal of better policy. These might include obvious links, such as between social inclusion and antipoverty organizations, as well as less obvious ones, such as businesses.
  • There is a need for leadership and expanding competence and capacity. Yet this debate could be much more grounded. MLC participants pointed to the power of immigrant based unions; the use of existing institutions, such as ethnic based museums as a tool for educating policymakers and the public; new opportunities, such as the capacity of hometown associations to strengthen or build an integrated civil society; as well as more traditional leadership programs and capacity-building exercises. (These could include a variety of best practices from immigrant-led NGOs that act as service providers and advocates.)
  • Among the most commonly mentioned policy areas that had room for further work is children's education, particularly in respect to language.
  • When applying best practices, NGOs should be flexible, examining the context in which the practice is used, what limitations exist in society, and what parts of the best practice can be transferred to other contexts.
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