What to Look Forward to at the 2020 National Immigrant Integration Conference

Friday December 4, 2020

Every year, leaders, advocates, and organizations that support immigrants and refugees across the United States gather at the National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC). The NIIC is organized by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), one of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s grantee partners, and will be held virtually this year on December 8 and 9.

As the first convening of immigration leaders since the U.S. November elections, the NIIC seeks to ensure that the voices of immigrant and refugee communities are front and center in policies and solutions, especially as we look toward an equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Panel topics include health care access, racial justice, and fundraising in the age of COVID-19. Confirmed speakers include U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, Ai-jen Poo of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rachel Peric of Welcoming America, and Laura Molinar of Sueños Sin Fronteras de Tejas.

For attendees looking for insights and ideas on growing your work during uncertain times, join a panel on fundraising in the age of COVID-19. Alongside representatives from the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR), and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the Fund’s senior director Monica Munn will discuss approaches to shift power from funders to communities, opportunities to demystify philanthropy, and resources that can help immigrant and refugee justice groups raise money.

We sat down with Nicole Melaku, NPNA’s executive director, to hear her thoughts on what’s needed to ensure that immigrants and refugees thrive and what she’s looking forward to at this year’s NIIC.

This has been a year full of many challenges and shifts. Looking ahead, what’s needed for immigrant communities to thrive, and what do you see as some of the most important topics of discussion at the NIIC?
The year 2020 has proved to be one of the most challenging on so many levels. First is the course correction needed to remedy the many harmful narratives and policies impacting immigrants and refugees—not only from this year, but the last four years. This year’s NIIC lays the groundwork to call for renewed unity and inclusion as our nation looks toward a new administration. The NIIC will provide an important space for advocates and immigrant inclusion stakeholders—to reaffirm our commitment to an inclusive democracy, to build an economic recovery that leaves no one behind, and to learn lessons coming out of the 2020 elections. This conferenece will set the stage for the many intersections of health, workforce, English language, and civic participation—all of which are critical to ensuring that immigrants can thrive. There are so many deep conversations to have, and the NIIC is just a starting point that can lead to collaboration and alignment among stakeholders.

As the NIIC goes virtual this year, what excites you about this new format in connecting immigrant advocates and communities across the country?
This year’s virtual NIIC format will be accessible to many individuals who can join us safely from their workspace or home. Our registration fee is $15. It’s important to our leadership team that our partners can invite their full teams and constituents to join us. We are also thrilled that for the first time, the NIIC will offer a simultaneous interpretation experience in Spanish for our main stage events, with the possibility of adding more as interpretation needs are identified.

How would you advise first-time NIIC attendees who want to make the most of this year’s conference?
Register early! The first several hundred participants will receive a copy of the book Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America by Maria Hinojosa, this year’s emcee. It is a powerful story, and we are thrilled that Maria can join us since narrative work is such an important topic at the NIIC. Participants should give themselves plenty of time to coordinate sessions with their teams, since several of our “deep dives” are occurring simultaneously. Our conference app will allow participants to create a profile and build an agenda before the actual event. We have some excellent talent joining us, including Ozomatli, so be prepared to have some fun with us at the NIIC, with music and special appearances by spoken word artists and culture influencers from across the country.

For more information about the 2020 National Immigrant Integration Conference: New American Dreams and to register, click here.

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