This last month has been a difficult one for America. With the terrible attacks in Paris on November 13th and in the wake of the tragic San Bernardino, California shooting, we have seen dozens of American politicians try and score cheap political points by scapegoating Syrian refugees and other immigrants, and openly targeting Muslims through broad generalizations. This recent vitriol culminated in Donald Trump's statement at an official press conference this week calling for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
Our political climate is now at a tipping point, with an ugly, un-American rhetoric being reinforced, and even encouraged, by individuals of influence. Amidst the frenzy and hysteria, we as Americans must ask ourselves some key questions. What is the role of newcomers from different shores in America, and how have they played such a key role in building America to date? What can we do to better integrate and include these newcomers? How can we ensure that we are building an America that respects the dignity and rights of all people, including immigrants and New Americans?
There is no better time than today to find these answers, with the kick-off of the National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC) in Brooklyn, New York, the largest immigrant integration gathering in the country drawing over 1,300 policy makers, advocates, educators, business leaders, culture shapers, community stakeholders, and more from across the country. The eighth annual National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC) -New American Dreams: Advancing Opportunity, Equality & Justice -is proudly co-hosted by the National Partnership for New Americans and the New York Immigration Coalition, along with Executive Committee members Make the Road NY and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
NIIC 2015 will connect a bold and dynamic immigrant integration movement with a broader group of stakeholders to drive inclusion and impact together. From exciting new developments in strengthening educational support for immigrants, expanding access to health care, creating new approaches to integration in emerging immigrant communities, building strategies to welcome refugees and tackle Islamophobia, and expanding efforts to empower New Americans to apply for citizenship - NIIC participants will discuss some of the key integration issues facing U.S immigrant communities today.
Over the next three days, the NIIC will set an example for how we can all work together to create policies and strategies that lift up America, by embracing emerging communities and understanding they play a critical role of what makes this country great. We are delighted to be joined by Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and many more leaders at the forefront of these discussions. To the Presidential candidates who will be in attendance, we ask them to join us in broadening and deepening the current political discourse about immigration, and together we look to shape a platform for New Americans ahead of the 2016 Presidential elections.
The time is now to turn back the tide of scapegoating immigrants and New Americans because of fear and intolerance. America can truly prosper by opening our hearts and minds, not closing them, and by doubling down on a deep commitment to welcoming communities and prioritizing immigrant integration.
So today in Brooklyn at the National Immigrant Integration Conference, we begin our discussions to embrace inclusion, defeat hate and pave the way for a stronger and more inclusive America.