Can you get through the maze of immigration? 

I used to think of immigration as a problem for the migrant poor, not something that affected college-educated global citizens. I now know that getting a work permit is a complicated and often heartbreaking process, no matter who you are. Thanks to months of pitching articles to whoever would let me write them – not to mention a good lawyer – I finally obtained an O visa this year. I don’t have to get married, to a man or a job, to have a career in the United States. But I was able to stay only because I had the time, resources, and support to make it work. For most people, the odds are stacked against them from beginning to end.

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, “Home is Where the Green Card Is” (via linabell)

Immigrants make up roughly the same share of the U.S. population today as they did a century ago.

Donut charts: Foreign Born Population

But changes in the global economy, and in U.S. immigration law, have dramatically shifted where U.S. immigrants are coming from.

A century ago, U.S. immigrants were overwhelmingly European. Today, Latin America and Asia are the big drivers of U.S. immigration, and Europe accounts for just a small fraction of the whole.

10 Great Novels About the Immigrant Experience

Green Card Stories tells the heartening, and often dramatic, tales of fifty immigrants who recently attained their American residency or citizenship, accompanied by powerful profiles by journalist Saundra Amrhein and evocative portraits by documentary photographer Ariana Lindquist. Created in collaboration with acclaimed immigration lawyers and scholars Laura Danielson and Stephen Yale-Loehr, the project is in some ways a beautiful celebration of the triumph of hope embedded in the promise of the American Dream, and in others a poignant glimpse of a brutal system of struggle that can, if allowed to, eat away at one’s deepest sense of dignity.

At its heart, however, the project aims straight for the bigoted misconceptions that immigrants are somehow less hard-working and passionate and full of potential than “real Americans,” revealing instead the remarkable kaleidoscope of human life and purpose in those who have come to share their gifts with America. Humble yet proud, the voices in these stories — of artists, of scientists, of entrepreneurs, of dancers — bespeak a simple truth about place and personhood: Who you are and what you have to contribute to society cannot, nor should it, ever be reduced to or measured by a few legal checkboxes, a set of biometric data, and a passport.


easy to forget..

A poem about tolerance


He spoke.

It wasn’t the language that I spoke.

He ate food.

It wasn’t the food that I ate.

He got dressed.

It wasn’t the clothes that I wore.

He shook my hand.

It wasn’t the same color as mine.

But when he laughed, it was,

How I laughed.

And when he cried,

It was how I cried.

Arguing against immigration policies that force foreign-born innovators to leave the United States, a new study to be released on Tuesday shows that immigrants played a role in more than three out of four patents at the nation’s top research universities. Enlarge This Image U.C.L.A. School of Dentistry Wenyuan Shi, a native of China, earned a patent in 2011 for the active ingredient in a lollipop that can help prevent tooth decay. Conducted by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a nonprofit group co-founded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, the study notes that nearly all the patents were in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields that are a crucial driver of job growth. The report points out that while many of the world’s top foreign-born innovators are trained at United States universities, after graduation they face “daunting or insurmountable immigration hurdles that force them to leave and bring their talents elsewhere.” The Partnership for a New American Economy released a paper in May saying that other nations were aggressively courting highly skilled citizens who had settled in the United States, urging them to return to their home countries. The partnership supports legislation that would make it easier for foreign-born STEM graduates and entrepreneurs to stay in the United States. “Now that we know immigrants are behind more than three of every four patents from leading universities, the federal laws that send so many of them back to their home countries look even more patently wrong,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. But some worry that the partnership’s ideas for immigration reform would undermine similarly skilled American workers while failing to address broader problems with immigration policy. “No one is asking what is in their best interest, the American worker,” said Eric Ruark, director of research for the Federal for American Immigration Reform, an advocacy group that is pushing for reduced immigration. “It’s what is best for the employers. What is best for the foreign workers. It’s not as if the foreign workers aren’t skilled. What’s being ignored is we already have a domestic work force that has the same skills.” The most recent study seeks to quantify the potential costs of immigration policies by reviewing 1,469 patents from the 10 universities and university systems that had obtained the most in 2011. The schools include the University of California system, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Patents, the study maintains, are a gauge for a nation’s level of innovation and an important way for the United States to maintain an edge in STEM fields. In one illustration of the issue, the study notes that nine out of 10 patents at the University of Illinois system in 2011 had at least one foreign-born inventor. Of those, 64 percent had a foreign inventor who was not yet a professor but rather a student, researcher or postdoctoral fellow, a group more likely to face immigration problems. Some of the patents that were reviewed for the report have become business ventures. Wenyuan Shi, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, earned a patent for an ingredient in a lollipop he developed that works as a dental treatment for children. A native of China, Mr. Shi has created a company to commercialize his inventions. But current immigration laws can make it difficult for foreign-born students to remain in the United States after graduation. And employers may be wary of hiring them because green cards, allowing for permanent residency status, are limited and the process of obtaining one is cumbersome and expensive. Under the current system, foreign-born students are allowed to stay in the United States for 12 to 29 months after graduation, provided they find a job or internship in their field. After that, more permanent visas are difficult to obtain, restricted by factors like country quotas. The study notes that China is entitled to the same number of visas as Iceland. Dr. Ashlesh Murthy came to the United States from India in 2001 to pursue a master’s degree in molecular biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Working with his professors there, he developed a vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia, which obtained patents in 2011 and 2012. Nonetheless, Dr. Murthy had to negotiate a bureaucratic maze to remain in the United States, and at one point was stuck in India for an extra month because American officials in India doubted a previously approved visa. Noting that university officials petitioned a congressman to intervene on his behalf, Dr. Murthy, said, “If I was not in a position where they really wanted me, I seriously doubt I would have gotten back.”

Immigrants Are Crucial to Innovation, Study Says

National Welcoming Week!

National Welcoming Week

September 15th-22nd, 2012

During the week of September 15th, 2012,Welcoming Rhode Island will join 22 other Welcoming America affiliates and partners across the country to participate in National Welcoming Week, a nationwide event that will promote meaningful connections and a spirit of unity between U.S. and foreign-born Americans by providing opportunities to learn about each other and work together for the greater good. Across the country, longtime residents and their new immigrant neighbors will join together during National Welcoming Week to take part in local community events, organized by Welcoming America’s affiliates and other national and local corporate partners, foundations, small businesses and residents of the community.

Throughout the week, Welcoming America’s affiliates will organize local activities that range from arts and culture events to joint service projects, all designed to lift up the positive messages and visibility of National Welcoming Week.  

Join Welcoming Rhode Island at our events!

“My Story, Our Community” Art Exhibit

Thursday, September 20, 2012 @ 5-9pm @ Atrium Gallery

35th Rhode Island Heritage Festival

Saturday, September 22, 2012 @ 12-6pm @ Roger Williams Memorial Park

Dominicans in Rhode Island

Although most literature today will chart the immigration patterns of Dominicans from the Dominican Republic to New York City, a sizable population of Dominicans can also be found in  the City of Providence. The story of the Dominicans in Providence, however, is one of migration, not immigration. Between 1980 and 1990, the Hispanic population of Rhode Island grew by 132%, and during the next decade by 98.5%. Although many Dominicans have made their home in New York since the passage of the Family Reunification Act of 1965, their arrival to Rhode Island took place almost a decade later.  

Beginning in the 1970s, and through the 1990s, Providence experienced a steady increase in its Hispanic population, mainly people looking for a way to get out of New York City. The migration of Dominicans and other Hispanics toward the  New England states occurred for a variety of reasons. Like most immigrants, the Dominicans came to the United States looking for a better life. Their trip northward stemmed from the same reasoning. Since New York City is the first stop for many Dominicans, the overcrowding of the City and the heavy concentration of Latinos there were cited as one of the main factors for leaving. Described by many Dominicans as beautiful due to its small-town-infrastructures, some of them moved to Providence to escape the City atmosphere and the tight ethnic enclaves. Dominicans currently living in Providence say that Rhode Island especially offered a safe environment for Dominicans with children.

Employment was another motivation for the migration from New York City to Providence. New factories started opening up in New England, and jobs became available to the Dominicans, mainly in jewelry and textile mills. During that time, it was said that jobs were so abundant that factory owners took to the streets to look for workers. And Dominicans who found these jobs, sent home word of the employment opportunities with money tucked inside their letters.

To many Dominicans, Providence was and still is the city of choice because this is where many of the first Hispanics settled, and continue to reside today. During the late 1950s and 1960s, there were not many Hispanics in Providence, and certainly fewer in other parts of Rhode Island, to help them acclimate to their new home. Without family, many Hispanics relied on the help of a woman named Josefina Rosario, and her family. Fondly known as “Doña Fefa” many people visited Providence before moving here, staying with Doña Fefa. To many, she was their only friend and ally. For years, Fefa and her husband, Tony, cordoned off sections of their apartment located on Broad Street in the Southside of Providence, and housed the newcomers. They helped their guests find jobs in restaurants, jewelry factories, textile mills. They went as far as to go with them to help them get driver’s licenses and social security cards, and even provided assistance with enrolling their children into the public schools.

Doña Fefa proudly poses in the first Hispanic market in Rhode Island, opened by the Rosario family.

Photo: Josefina “Doña Fefa” Rosario, matriarch of the first  Dominican family, proudly poses in the first Hispanic market in Rhode Island, opened by the Rosario family.

The Rosarios were not only the first Latino couple to arrive in Rhode Island from New York City in 1952. They were also the first to open the first Hispanic food market and restaurant in the state called Fefa’s Market. Today the Dominican Community is clearly the leader in Hispanic-owned businesses on Broad Street, Elmwood Avenue and Cranston Street in the City of Providence. Providence is now a community waiting to be shaped by Hispanics, their experiences and their customs. A walk along Broad Street and other parts of the Southside of Providence today boasts the entrepreneurial endeavors of Dominicans in the form of bodegas, restaurants and beauty salons, among the many cultural symbols of success. Today’s Dominicans also boast the highest political activity among Latinos in Rhode Island. This community has helped elect two Dominicans to the Providence City Council, two Latina legislators to a House seat, and the first Senator to serve in the Rhode Island State House.

Source: The Latino Oral History Project of Rhode Island