SPEAKING OUT—An advocate for the Immigration Bill, Rufus Idris executive director of the Christian Evangelistic Economic Development organization has high hopes for the bill.
The topic of immigration reform has been in the forefront of President Barack Obama’s agenda for several years. His goal is to fix what he calls the broken immigration system so that it can be “fairer for and help grow the middle class by ensuring everyone plays by the same rules.” The President is requesting approval by the Senate and House of a comprehensive immigration overhaul measure for him to sign into law by years end. To Rufus Idris, a native of Kogi State, Nigeria and executive director of the Christian Evangelistic Economic Development organization, the Immigration Bill is a wise move.
For the past nine years CEED has built a reputation for assisting and developing small businesses in the region. A large portion of those businesses have been established by the immigrant and refugee population. “Creating more businesses that strengthens our economy and create jobs for Americans is inevitable. I think the Immigration Bill is a wise move towards achieving this,” he said.
Idris indicated that businesses under five years old are responsible for all net job creation over the past three decades in America, and a critical driver of new business creation in America has been entrepreneurial immigrants. “Immigrants start small businesses in their quest to become economically self-sufficient and serve the consumer needs of the local and global community,” he said.
In his strong support of the Immigrant Bill he cited that the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants are now more than twice as likely as the native-born to start a business and were responsible for more than one in every four (28 percent) U.S. businesses founded in 2011, significantly outpacing their share of the population (12.9 percent).
Steadfast in its mission to revitalize, strengthen and produce healthy, self-sustaining communities through innovative programs and projects that put community members and stakeholders in the forefront of economic growth and self-sufficiency, one of CEEDs’ recent initiatives is the Immigrant Family Childcare Project. Established by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Immigrant and International Initiative, the project is designed to enhance community growth and economic self-sufficiency by developing business opportunities for immigrant and refugee women through the development of family based childcare programs. The project is in response to the need raised by its Advisory Council for culturally sensitive childcare.
“Immigrants and refugees come to America with hopes and dreams of a better life for themselves and their families,” said Krissy Kimura, the Immigrant Family Childcare Project program coordinator. “Adjusting to a new community and culture can be challenging. Finding that their family’s needs cannot be met with the income from one wage earner, it becomes necessary for many women to contribute financially to meet their family’s needs. In many cases, for women with children, the concept of using formal childcare through a center is difficult culturally and unrealistic financially. Preferring family and neighborhood support, they often find the concept of planning and organizing childcare arrangements new and difficult.”
“Our goals with this project,” she continued, “is to develop a source of employment and income by training immigrant and refugee women to become relative, neighbor and family childcare providers, building on their experience. At the same time, this provided other women the opportunity to seek employment knowing their children will be in culturally familiar care. Along with increasing opportunities for women, the training they received enhanced the level of childcare throughout the community.”
The training, according to Kimura consisted of six 12 hour hands-on interactive sessions with ten women completing it. For some of the women this program provided the first experience for them to interact with other cultures. She said nationalities included Somalia, Liberian, Togo, South Sudan, Burmese and Bhutanese.
Considered a pilot program, training was inclusive of pediatrics first aide, mandated reporting, emergency pediatrics, nutrition and three segments of business training: marketing, contracts and policies and taxes.
Partners, supporters and funders of the Immigrant Family Childcare Project included Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Vibrant Pittsburgh, and the YWCA’s Liz Prine Fund. Refugee service providers were Prospect Park Family Center, Union of African Communities in Pittsburgh, Northern Area Companies, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Catholic Charities, AJAPO, and Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association. Kimura identified the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council as assisting with ESL needs. The Pennsylvania Southwest Regional Key is working to develop trainings in pediatric first aide, mandated reporting, emergency preparedness, nutrition, and the business component.
The Immigrant Family Childcare Project falls under CEED’s Skills to Wealth Program’s Micro-enterprise and Technical Assistance service which responds to challenges faced by startup and existing underserved and disadvantaged entrepreneurs struggling to sustain, stabilize, or grow a business in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
When asked how the Immigration Bill will affect CEED and some of their clients, Idris said, “Knowing the importance of new businesses; the economic opportunities, the jobs, and the innovative products that help us compete in the global economy, an immigration bill that gives more non-criminal immigrants a pathway to legal status in the United States will help more entrepreneurial immigrants qualify for assistance from CEED to start or grow businesses in Pittsburgh and its environs.”
Four Democrats and four Republicans known as the, “gang of eight” plan to present an immigration bill this week.