World Education Services and More Than 120 Other Organizations Call on Congress to Support the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act

NEW YORK, NY—(August 3, 2021) World Education Services (WES) joins Church World Service, International Rescue Committee, National Immigration Forum, National Skills Coalition, New American Economy, and Upwardly Global, together with more than 120 national, state, and local organizations, in urging Congress to co-sponsor the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act. This bipartisan legislation would direct the United States Department of Labor to conduct an interagency study of the barriers that impact employment opportunities of immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials.

Read the full sign-on letter urging members of Congress to co-sponsor the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act:

Dear Members of Congress,

On behalf of more than 120 national, state, and local organizations, we write to express our support for The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2021. This bipartisan legislation directs the United States Department of Labor (DOL) to study the barriers that lead to the underemployment and unemployment of immigrants and refugees who hold professional credentials earned in other countries.

Immigrants, refugees, and asylees are eager to contribute their experience and training in the U.S. Yet because of systemic barriers, including the lack of recognition of their international education and experience, more than two million immigrants with college degrees are underemployed or unemployed in the U.S.; 60 percent of them have international credentials, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. This underutilization of talent limits workforce diversity and robs us of the urgently needed social, cultural, and linguistic abilities of immigrant and refugee workers. It also results in nearly $39.4 billion in forgone earnings and $10 billion in unrealized tax payments.

Dr. Sura Alsaffar, for example, spent 16 years practicing as a physician in both Syria and Iraq. She treated patients during extreme war conditions but was ultimately forced to flee as a refugee. Despite her extensive experience and efforts to successfully pass all three steps of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), Dr. Alsaffar’s medical career has stalled in the U.S. She earns $15 an hour as an administrative assistant; to re-enter the medical field, she is working with the job coaching non-profit Upwardly Global. As the COVID-19 pandemic strains the U.S. health sector and the nation faces a looming physician shortage, cumbersome barriers to licensure prevent qualified professionals like Dr. Alsaffar from re-establishing their careers.

“Coming to the U.S. was a dream come true for us. We were so grateful to have the opportunity to move to a safe place. But our safety has also cost me my career. And it’s been hard to sit on the sidelines during this pandemic, when I know that I have experience to contribute,” Dr. Alsaffar says.

Refugees and immigrants are vital to the prosperity of our communities, and their inclusion will be critical to the nation’s economic recovery. In 2015 alone, nearly 2.3 million refugees earned a collective $77.2 billion in household income, contributed $20.9 billion in taxes, and held $56.3 billion in spending power. Immigrants make up more than 16 percent of all U.S. health workers; 8 percent of teachers; 25 percent of the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry; and 25 percent of IT professionals.

As the U.S. recovers and rebuilds, the need to integrate immigrants and refugees into the workforce is increasingly urgent. The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2021 marks an important step in building a resilient workforce and robust economy, and we urge all members of Congress to co-sponsor this bill.


African Advocacy Network

African Bridge Network

Amplio Recruiting

Arlington Public Library

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture

Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

CAMI Health

Career Solutions

Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition

Chicago Jewish Coalition for Refugees

Chicago Jobs Council

Chinese Mutual Aid Association

Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church

Church World Service (CWS)

Cincinnati Compass

Coalition for Adult Basic Education (COABE)

Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)

Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE)

Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS)

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim

Consortium of Physicians From Latin America (COPHYLA)

Council on American-Islamic Relations in Missouri (CAIR-MO)

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Dominican Sisters of Houston

Dover Adult Learning Center

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

Edgewater Castle FC

Eleser Corp

Empowering Communities Globally: For the Care of Children

English for New Bostonians

Faith in Public Life

Fellowship Southwest

Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice


Glen Oaks Community College

Global Cleveland


Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) ministry

ICNA Relief


Institute for Immigration Research (IIR)

InterFaith Works of Central New York

International Institute of Buffalo

International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit

International Institute of St. Louis

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) 

Jewish Family and Career Services (JFCS) Louisville

Jobs for the Future (JFF)

Journey’s End Refugee Services

Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Livefully Corp

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)

Maine Business Immigration Coalition

Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)


Médicos Unidos Venezuela USA

Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance

MIRR (Migrant, Immigrant, Refugee Rights) Alliance

Motherland Beauties

National Council of Churches USA

National Immigration Forum

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR)

National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA)

National Skills Coalition

Nebraska Appleseed

New American Economy

New American Pathways

New Women New Yorkers

New York Immigration Coalition

Niskanen Center

New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC)

One Refugee

Ozark Literacy Council

Palm Beach State College

Pars Equality Center, Los Angeles

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Per Scholas

Phipps Neighborhoods


Portland Adult Education

Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

Project Blueprint

Project Worthmore

Promise Arizona

Pursuit Transformation Company Inc

Refugee Action Network

Refugee Advocacy Lab

Refugee Congress

Refugee Education & Adventure Challenge (REACH)

Restore Education

Riverside Language Program

Russian Oregon Social Services

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Justice Team

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning

Spur LLC

SUNY Bronx Educational Opportunity Center (EOC)

Syrian Community Network

Talent Beyond Boundaries

Tent Partnership for Refugees

The Center for Victims of Torture

Turas Group

Union for Reform Judaism

Upwardly Global

U.S. Africa Institute

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid

Voces Unidas for Justice

Washington Academy for International Medical Graduates (WAIMG)

We Are All America

Welcome Back Initiative

Welcoming America

Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration

World Education Services (WES)

World Relief

YMCA International Learning Center

YMCA of Greater New York