2019 End of Year Report

Dear Friends and Supporters,

2019 was a groundbreaking year for New American Economy. We officially launched a new Arts & Culture program, added 16 communities to our State and Local work, bringing our total number of active communities to over 75 — 75 percent of which are in red and purple areas — released State Compacts on Immigration in five diverse states, which led to the creation of our first state-wide business coalition in Texas, and successfully leveraged our local partnerships to land big pro-immigrant wins at the city, state, and federal levels and fight back against anti-immigrant policies.

While 2019 remained a challenging year for immigration reform and one of deep polarization, we are proud of the strides we have made and infrastructure we have built across the country, especially in communities such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Grand Rapids Michigan; Northern Kentucky; and Toledo-Lucas County, Ohio. Most importantly, we are closing out the year at a pivotal moment for immigrants with the 2020 election right around the corner, and are uniquely poised, as the one group active in almost all of the swing and conservative states, to fight on their behalf and stand up to anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Changing the Way Americans Think About Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion Through Arts & Culture

Americans are increasingly polarized and immigration has been used as the fuel on this fire. NAE was founded to take this polarization head on, and we’ve had tremendous success over the years in changing immigration policy from the ground up all over the country. But winning this fight depends on more than policy. It depends on identity, and on proving to Americans that their communities are stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient when they attract and integrate immigrants. This year NAE opened a new front in that fight, pioneering work in arts and culture that is designed to stem polarization and bring communities together, working to  humanize the debate and reach communities at a starting point rooted in shared experience rather than in an overtly political or policy-focused way.

As part of this narrative change and arts and culture work, NAE launched New American Festival (NAF), a celebration of diversity and immigrant contributions to culture in the arts, food, film, comedy, music, and more through special performances, original artwork, immersive experiences, films, and panels by immigrant artists.

The inaugural New American Festival started in NYC, America’s immigrant capital and national hub for the arts, with the goal of engaging and educating millennial New Yorkers and cultural influencers on immigration. It opened to great success, including iconic immigrant artists and talent such as Hasan Minhaj, Aminatou Sow, Padma Lakshmi, Dr. Ruth, and Marcus Samuelsson. The festival then traveled throughout the country to places such as Kansas City, Missouri; Houston, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Detroit, Michigan, where NAE is already engaged, to enhance our policy, advocacy, and organizing work, and where the narrative change is needed most to positively transform the way people think about immigration and American culture.

Also as part of this work, NAE launched Looking for America, a dinner and dialogue series that brings together people from all different perspectives and belief systems to explore immigration and American identity through public art, storytelling, and dialogue — specifically the question, “What does it mean to be an American?”

The series traveled to six dynamic communities across the country– including those in the Midwest, at the border, and in rural areas such as Sioux City, El Paso, and Salt Lake City— in which it partnered with a local cultural institution to curate art exhibitions featuring U.S.-born and immigrant artists to answer the question, “What does it mean to be an American in your Community?” Community members from different backgrounds and political identities were invited to engage with the exhibitions and offer their own perspectives and stories over a shared meal. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to understand how local culture and circumstances shape political perspectives across the United States and how we can build a more constructive dialogue at a time of increasing polarization and division, especially around the issue of immigration reform.

In addition, NAE built out our storytelling program, creating original content that highlights how immigrants lift up communities alongside their neighbors all across the country. We produced a short documentary about Dr. Omar, originally from Mexico City, who brought much-needed care to rural West Virginia and is changing the lives of community members. PBS NewsHour previewed another one of our short documentaries about Mahira Patkovich, who initially struggled in grade school after fleeing the Bosnian War as a child and today is a successful small business owner who is helping to revitalize downtown Utica, New York. 

Our nationwide team of journalists documents hundreds of individual stories showing the ways in which immigrants positively contribute to local businesses, industries, and communities. Thanks to this effort, this year, we have published 18 unique pieces in 112 congressional districts in both national and local news outlets, specifically targeting red and purple areas of the country, including recent pieces in Utah, Kentucky, Arizona, Iowa, Fort-Worth, and Kansas.

Here are our top ten published stories, particularly in red and purple areas:

You can see more of NAE’s storytelling here.

Taking the Fight Outside of Washington: Meeting People Where They Are to Make Positive Change on the Ground

NAE’s State and Local program allows us to move outside of Washington, DC and meet people in the communities where they are, working with civic, business and community leaders they trust, to help them better understand and integrate their immigrant populations as well as advocate for policies that are positive for their communities and their economies.

NAE has added 16 new communities — bringing our total number to more than 75 communities, over 75 percent of which are in red or purple states. Many of the new communities this year were added to our pillar Gateways for Growth Program (G4G) where we provide tailored research, technical assistance, and matching grants to help localities better understand their  immigrant populations and design immigrant integration plans that help drive economic growth and inclusion.

Through G4G, NAE has released tailored research reports in San Antonio, Texas, Northern Kentucky, Charlotte, North Carolina, Roanoke, Virginia, Lowell, Massachusetts, Toledo-Lucas County, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa this year. 

In Charlotte, the launch of our research precipitated the first-ever City Compact on Immigration, showing that now, more than ever, cities and states are leading the charge on inclusive immigration policies. In Cedar Rapids, in partnership with the City of Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Rapids Metro Alliance, our report led to the launch of a strategic welcoming plan, Welcoming Cedar Rapids, which outlines the short-term catalytic actions that local leaders can take to empower immigrant residents building lives in the area.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Alliance has made it one of its key priorities for 2020. Strategic welcoming plans are underway in San Antonio, Texas, Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky, Roanoke Virginia, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Memphis, Tennessee and will be launched in early 2020.

Through NAE’s Global Talent Chamber Network, we have helped chambers release new research and start dialogues on building welcoming strategies in Asheville, North Carolina, North Texas (Dallas Metro Area), and Dallas County.

NAE has also completed research for chambers in Fort Worth/Tarrant County, Lubbock, Longview, Odessa, and Arlington, Texas and is in the process of developing a release plan with each community.

This year, NAE has worked with a total of 24 states organizing local leaders for State Compacts on Immigration and business coalitions, supporting the Office of New Americans (ONA) State Network; and releasing legislative briefs and fact sheets to help support pro-immigrant state legislation and fight back against anti-immigrant state and federal legislation.

NAE launched State Compacts on Immigration in Iowa, Texas, and Florida and reaffirmed the State Compacts in Utah and Colorado, with more than  475 signatories. In Texas, the Compact led to the creation of Texans for Economic Growth, an active 83-member business coalition that includes business and association leaders and 25 Chambers of Commerce throughout the state, which was crucial in our fight to beat back efforts to repeal the Texas Dream Act.

Finally, in January, NAE partnered with World Education Services (WES) to take leadership over the management and facilitation of the Office of New Americans (ONA) State Network, a forum for state policy leaders acting as either directors of dedicated state integration offices or key agency officials, who have been designated by their state’s Governor to implement immigrant integration initiatives. NAE implemented monthly calls to facilitate information sharing and peer-to-peer coaching between the states, and this past October, coordinated an in-person convening, which included federal updates on issues pertaining to workforce and the census, as well as a closed-door session to facilitate peer-to-peer coaching.

While Washington remains largely in gridlock on this issue and anti-immigration rhetoric dominates the national political conversation, the cultivation of state and local partners through business, political and civic leaders have allowed NAE to breakthrough and make positive headway in some of the most unlikely places. As a result, NAE not only supports real change on the ground in diverse communities across the country, but also helps create coalitions of unlikely advocates to fight for immigration reform in Washington.

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Telling Stories and Creating Action Through Powerful Original Data

This fall, to incentivize more city governments to adopt pro-immigrant policies and help cities track their work, NAE released our updated Cities Index, the first-ever interactive tool that measures how well the largest 100 U.S. cities are integrating immigrants. Cities have started using this a benchmark for progress, resulting in the average score increasing between year one and year two.

Dallas used their Year One score to build public support for their recently launched Welcoming Dallas plan, and the city had significantly raised their score in Year Two. Similarly, after receiving their Year One score, Cleveland performed an analysis for their welcoming policies and improved significantly between the first and second year.

This year Chicago ranks No. 1, followed by Chula Vista, CA, Jersey City, NJ, and San Francisco, CA. The index shows that Midwestern cities are making the biggest strides—with Cleveland, OH, and Toledo, OH among the top ten cities whose scores improved the most since last year– both cities in which NAE has worked extensively.

With the new “Public Charge” rule held up in the courts, NAE analyzed exactly what implementing it would do to the U.S. economy. Our research, which was covered in Politico’s newsletter, Morning Shift, shows that there are more than 3.9 million non-citizens who would likely be affected by the Public Charge rule, and nearly 90 percent of those in the labor force are employed. Should these workers be forced to leave the United States, it would cost the U.S. economy almost $82 billion.

In response to the Administration’s actions towards refugees, particularly reducing the refugee cap by almost half and the release of an executive order that requires state and local governments to give written consent to accept refugees, NAE released research analyzing the economic costs of these measures and placed Op-eds and stories using this research throughout the country. NAE’s analysis of what the economic costs would be if states choose to opt out of the refugee resettlement program in 2020 found that a state may be risking millions of dollars in income and additional economic stimulus—just by opting out for one year. For example, Texas risks losing up to 17 million dollars if they were to opt out, and Arizona up to 9 million dollars. This loss of millions of dollars would also come on top of the direct loss of federal funding for refugee resettlement—money that is usually spent locally, supporting local businesses and the economy.

We placed stories in places such as Alabama, Texas, Maine, Missouri, and Louisiana using NAE’s research and advocating against these policies, and persuaded governors to sign a letter of consent opting into refugee resettlement by publishing tailored state fact sheets and economic analysis in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, and Michigan.

Through the release of research and legislative briefs, NAE was successful in helping halt two anti-sanctuary bills in Virginia. Our data was used by advocacy groups when fighting the bills in the state legislature and again in veto letters to the Governor, who ultimately vetoed both bills. NAE has released research in South Carolina and Wisconsin to help in their legislative campaigns to implement in-state tuition for DACA students, which passed in Arkansas earlier this year, where NAE also provided tailored data. In addition, advocacy groups in both Maryland and North Carolina actively approached NAE this year to create fact sheets to help them fight anti-immigrant bills, including the Show Me Your Papers bill in North Carolina.

Making Legislative Change Through Unlikely Champions

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

By leveraging our diverse coalitions across the country to advocate for immigration reform, NAE has had some important legislative wins.

The Texas Compact on Immigration and the Texans for Economic Growth (TEG) business coalition was crucial in our fight to beat back efforts to repeal in-state tuition for Dreamers, and continues to be a strong force in advocating for immigration reform nationally. TEG organized and submitted letters to Congress in support of the Dream and Promise Act and in support of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which passed the House with support from 28 members of the Texas delegation.

Furthermore, our Kentucky and Iowa chambers partners were instrumental in engaging with their Congressional leaders to express support for the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, urging the Senate to pass the bipartisan bill. Leading up to the vote on the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, NAE organized elected officials, chambers of commerce, business, and community leaders in key states to write and place op-eds in their local media including the President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce piece, the Mayor of Lewinston, Maine, and the President of the Ames Chamber of Commerce in Iowa. 

In addition, NAE organized over 60 chambers of commerce and business leaders around the country to write an open letter to the U.S. House and Senate calling for the support of the Dream and Promise Act and placed op-eds in influential states, including this piece by the CEO of the Ft. Bend, Texas Chamber of Commerce and in Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, and Maine.

Through the outreach and advocacy work by NAE’s Texans for Economic Growth business coalition, Colorado Compact signatories, and a handful of strategic chambers of commerce, NAE aided in the passage of the Farm Modernization Bill, which gives immigrant farmworkers a pathway to apply for legal status without compromising their existing wages and legal protections.

Most recently, NAE organized the submission of public comments by Texans for Economic Growth and Colorado Compact business signatories against the proposed USCIS hikes, which would make it even harder for immigrants to apply for citizenship.

Have You Seen NAE in the Press?

Check out 10 of our favorite stories from 2019:

  • USA Today: This is the most immigrant-friendly city in America, new report says
  • PBS News Hour: What ending DACA could cost the U.S. economy
  • Time Out New York (magazine): The Best Things to do Right Now: New American Festival 
  • Houston Chronicle: New American Festival delves into immigrant experience through art
  • Fast Company: This data viz could help cities fight back against Trump’s war on immigrants
  • The Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, Don’t Abandon the Dreamers 
  • BuzzFeed: Opinion: Refugees Made Our City Great. Turning Them Away Is A Moral Disaster.
  • Detroit Free Press:  ‘Immigrants are helping Michigan,’ nonprofit founder says at Detroit conference
  • CNN: Welcome to the Fractured States of America 
  • Salt Lake Tribune: Michelle Quist: Listening to each other will make us more civil

Thank You

The new year — and with it, the 2020 elections — will prove to be an extremely important time for immigration reform and the fight to depolarize our country. As an organization that has cultivated unlikely coalitions and champions in cities and states across the country, NAE has a unique opportunity to have an outsized impact on these issues and the narratives that come to define them.

We are grateful for your support.
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We are very grateful to NAE’s supporters, local partners, and funders who have made laying this groundwork possible. 2019 was a big year for NAE, but 2020 is shaping up to be even bigger.


The NAE Team

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…