June is Immigrant Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich diversity in our community and our collective history of immigrants as a nation. Started in 2014, Immigrant Heritage Month “gives people across the United States an opportunity to explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America” (I Am An Immigrant, 2018).
When we stop and think about it, most Americans have a heritage that began in another country. People from countries like Italy, Germany, Poland, China and Japan came to the U.S. in hopes of creating a better life for themselves, their families and future generations. We often celebrate our own heritage during the holidays or at family gatherings through the food we eat or the traditions we have. People take pride in where their family is from, and there are always stories about how our ancestors came to this country with very little, worked hard and led successful lives. Immigrants came to this nation from all walks of life with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and started businesses that contributed to the economic growth of the United States.
Today, immigrants are a rapidly growing demographic representing a diverse population, encompassing all of the world’s cultures. Individuals and families choose to make the United States home for a wealth of reasons. Migrants may be joining family already settled here; they may be fleeing violence, repression or natural disaster in their country of origin, or lack of economic opportunities for themselves and their families. Or, they may be drawn to the U.S. in search of safety, freedom, and equality, and economic and educational opportunities for themselves and their families (Marc R. Rosenblum, 2011). Whatever the reason, it is important that we provide a welcoming and inclusive community for everyone.
“Never judge someone without knowing the whole story. You may think you understand, but you don’t.” –Anonymous
Taking the time to get to know someone is one of the easiest and most impactful things a person can do to make immigrants feel welcome in the community - learn their story, help them navigate the area or learn the language, or just be a friend. Below is a list of ideas of ways you can be involved in welcoming immigrants into your community (World Relief Dupage/Aurora, 2017):
- Provide transportation for refugees
- Become an ESL tutor
- Volunteer to help immigrant students adapt to a new school
- Volunteer at a non-profit committed to helping immigrant families such as the YMCA or United Way
- Participate in cultural activities/fairs in your area
- Become an advocate in your community to start programs/groups for incoming refugees
Immigrant Heritage Month is a great reminder that most Americans’ heritage began outside the U.S. It is a time to acknowledge that everyone coming to the United States has something to contribute to the greater good of the community and the economy. Being welcoming and inclusive not only helps others, but it will help you as well. You are sure to learn as much about other cultures as immigrants will learn about the American culture. There are many things you can do to help a newcomer to our county, but the simple act of being a friend will have the longest-lasting impact on another human being.
I Am An Immigrant. (2018, May 7). Retrieved from iamanimmigrant.com: www.iamanimmigrant.com
Marc R. Rosenblum, a. K. (2011, August 2011). US Immigration Policy and Mexican/Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now. Retrieved from Migration Policy Institute: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/RMSG-regionalflows.pdf
World Relief Dupage/Aurora. (2017). 6 Ways to Welcome Refugees & Immigrants. Retrieved from World Relief Dupage/Aurora: https://worldreliefdupageaurora.org/stories-news/6-ways-welcome-refugees-immigrants