Houston Can Help New Americans Thrive
What an exciting time to be in Houston: we live in one of the fastest-growing cities in the country with substantial demographic changes taking place within less than one generation. Houston, with its vibrant patchwork of immigrant communities, offers a glimpse of what the United States will look like in a not-toodistant future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, immigrants make up more than 22 percent of Houston’s population, almost double that of 1990.
In view of that, the ways in which our community regards and welcomes immigrants will affect our overall success and growth.
Effective approaches will help build up our city’s economic competitiveness and community relationships. Immigrants in Houston must have the ability to participate fully in all these areas.
Leading up to the recent launch of a nationwide effort to build an Immigration 2020 agenda ensuring that new Americans have the opportunities, skills and status to reach their fullest potential, local leaders have been thoughtful in discussing the solutions that Houston needs to meet these challenges.
I’ve met with Houston leaders from faith, law enforcement, business and educational organizations, all of whom value moving this conversation forward and understand its high stakes in their sectors, in our city and in our country.
Houston employers and educators should promote access to the necessary skills and knowledge to meet our city’s needs. And we ought to promote naturalization so that everyone can be fully invested in their communities. But that’s just the beginning.
Our city has the potential to have meaningful influence in addressing immigration locally, across sectors and on policies both public and private, while the debate on immigration reform nationally remains in limbo.
Choosing to ignore this opportunity would be a waste for all of us.
Foreign-born Houstonians in the metro area make up 29 percent of the workforce and own 31 percent of all businesses. Not appreciating this growth and the possibilities would be shortsighted.
New Americans bring with them richly diverse perspectives and experiences that are essential contributions for a society to thrive. Throughout our history, standing together as a nation of immigrants is what has made our organizations, businesses and neighborhoods exceptional — and we need to continue pushing for solutions that uphold this heritage.
And ultimately, we cannot forget that this is about people. We cannot accept anti-immigrant rhetoric
and policies that divide and de-humanize our community. Even beyond politics, we can work toward
new solutions that benefit both the native- and foreign-born among us.
Standing on shared values in creating immigration solutions will move our nation forward and spur
progress for generations to come.
Author: BRENDA KIRK