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Happy Immigrant Heritage Month from America’s Voice

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June marks the annual Immigrant Heritage Month, a time for our nation to honor, celebrate, and uplift the stories of immigrants and their communities. In multiple states, events and reporting have already been highlighting immigrants’ accomplishments, contributions, and the unique place they hold in the story of America. 

In New York City, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) kicked off Immigrant Heritage Month “by actively informing and connecting immigrants in five boroughs of NYC with city resources & services,” including assistance with signing up for an identification card under the resoundingly successful IDNYC program. MOIA also said it would continue a theme from last year and share illustrations depicting the city’s immigrant communities. “These illustrations are also one way we celebrate & highlight the endless contributions, rich histories, and unique cultures of our city’s diverse immigrant communities.”

In San Francisco, two immigrant entrepreneurs have been celebrated for opening the Bay Area’s very first K-pop store. Chesca Rueda and Kevin Teng, both immigrants from the Philippines, initially had different career goals but sought to create a place where people could connect and come together in their love of K-pop. Their first holiday pop-up store was a big success, leading to the opening of a permanent store in the city’s Sunset District.

“There was just so much potential in the Bay Area,” Rueda told KRON 4 News. “There are so many people like me that can connect to each other through K-pop. Even though we’re American or from different countries other than Korea it’s a way of connecting and creating a community.” The two also embody immigrants’ entrepreneurial spirit. “In 2019, immigrant entrepreneurs made up 21.7 percent of all business owners in the United States, despite making up just over 13.6 percent of the population and 17.1 percent of the U.S. labor force,” New American Economy said.

 

In other parts of the country, new Americans are also looking for a brighter future for themselves and their families. In New Hampshire, two dozen immigrants were naturalized as U.S. citizens ahead of the start of Immigrant Heritage Month. Raul and Silvia Botha initially came to this country to seek treatment for their son’s kidney condition. “When we arrived, I was scared,” Silvia said, adding how the family was unfamiliar with the language and ways here. But America is now home. They are also becoming U.S. citizens during an election year, which the family is taking very seriously.

“It’s huge,” Silvia told the Concord Monitor. “I am very honored to be able to have the right to vote. And also that comes with responsibilities; therefore, I have to be very conscious and very fully informed.”

At an U.S. Army base in Germany that same week, nearly three dozen service members and family members were sworn in as American citizens. “I look forward doing great things with being an American and also living life as an American,” said Private First Class Linsa Asante, who is originally from Ghana. The new Americans came from two dozen different countries. “The racial and ethnic composition of foreign-born veterans is much more diverse than that of U.S.-born veterans,” Migration Policy Institute said in May. “Close to two-thirds of immigrant veterans in 2022 identified as Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander.”

Closer to home, America’s Voice Director of Communications Ivonne Rodriguez was also sworn in as an American citizen. “My immigrant journey began over 20 years ago when my mom packed our bags and fled to Miami in search of safety,” she tweeted in May. “Fortunately, a naturalized family member petitioned for my green card years later, which led me to this moment.” Nearly 40 immigrants were sworn in as U.S. citizens at a May ceremony in New Orleans. Debra Salbador, a volunteer at the ceremony, said she’d previously helped her husband study for his naturalization exam. “There’s a test that they take—that I am sure there are a lot of American-born citizens don’t know the answers to all those items—because I helped him study for that test,” she told Fox 8. “And it’s like, ‘Woah! This is a reminder!’”

In a statement received by America’s Voice, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus celebrated immigrants and their contributions to this country. “In the United States, approximately two-thirds of Asian Americans and one-sixth of Pacific Islanders are foreign-born.” Recent data from the New American Voters campaign found that AAPI individuals have made up the largest group of new Americans since the last presidential election.

“Immigrant communities, including Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants, make up the strong, vibrant fabric of our nation,” said Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu. “This month and every month, we honor the rich diversity of our immigrant communities—many of whom came in search of a better life and in turn have strengthened our nation in business, civil rights, art, research, sports, public service, and so much more. It is critical that we celebrate the contributions and dedication that immigrant communities bring to our country every day, and recognize that their history is American history.”

“National Immigrant Heritage Month is a time to honor the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and stories that immigrants from across the world bring to our communities,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán. “Their resilience, innovation, and contributions are at the heart of our nation’s strength and diversity. Today, we celebrate the endless possibilities and dreams that unite us all as one. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stands alongside the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and everyone who shares our shared goal of empowering immigrant voices and protecting their rights.”

“Immigrants keep our economy strong and help drive the success of our Nation,” President Biden said in his proclamation. “They ensure our safety as first responders and military service members; they maintain the health of our communities as doctors and nurses; they are there for our family members and children as educators and care workers; they feed and fuel our population as more than half of the Nation’s farmworkers; they are one in five of our business owners; and they are leaders in technology, philanthropy, and media. All told, they contribute hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes each year and create millions of jobs. The ingenuity, grit, and perseverance of immigrants are driving forces in every aspect of American life.”

Since our nation’s founding, untold numbers of families have thrived after arriving on our shores in hopes of new lives for themselves and their loved ones. But another unwavering truth has been that our nation has also thrived because of them. 

The “I Stand With Immigrants” initiative said that in the decade since the first Immigrant Heritage Month, nearly all the states in the union have celebrated the month-long commemoration. “Even more cities — 257 small towns and metropolitan areas all across the country — have joined us in June to celebrate the diversity and sharing of cultures that is crucial to all of our collective history in this country.” Here at America’s Voice, we’ll be lifting up these stories over the next couple of weeks. We invite you to join us – and happy Immigrant Heritage Month to all!