Maryland's Welcome Back Initiative Honored by Migrant Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy


BALTIMORE, MD (May 19, 2011) - The Maryland Welcome Back Initiative, supported through a grant from the Maryland Department of Labor (DLLR) and administered by the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs, was touted last night by the Migrant Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. The Initiative earned the Commission on Hispanic Affairs the E Pluribus Unum Prize for its successful work to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices.

"I'm proud that one of the Department of Labor's premiere investments is receiving national recognition, and I applaud the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs for their effective and forward-looking leadership of the Maryland Welcome Back Initiative," Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez said. "Maryland is blessed with the best-educated and most diverse workforce in America. However, too many of our highly-skilled and well-educated immigrant neighbors are underemployed. The Maryland Department of Labor, in partnership with the Commission on Hispanic Affairs and other partners across state government, is working tirelessly to connect all Marylanders - including New Americans - with more rewarding opportunities."

The Welcome Back Initiative provides orientation, educational resources, access to language training and support that helps foreign-trained health professionals more easily navigate the licensing process to allow them to restart careers in the U.S. health industry. The Initiative supports various 'Welcome Back Centers' which leverage the training, experience and language skills of underemployed migrant professionals, helping them transition from low-skill jobs to high-demand professions in the health care industry.

"We are very honored to be one of the recipients of this prestigious award, which recognizes the critical value and tremendous contributions of new immigrants to the overall community," said Sonia Mora, director of the Maryland Welcome Back Center and Chair of the Health Committee of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs. "With the support of the Governor's Administration, other public and private-sector funders and partners, we are able to provide to participants guidance towards licensure, ESOL instruction, on-the-job paid internships and training and leadership development. This allows high-caliber professionals from all over the world, including Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, to incorporate themselves into the health system and provide quality services not only to underserved communities, but to the community at large."

"Each one of the members of this Commission works hard every day in each of our areas of expertise to ensure that our community is served and empowered in our great State, to see recognition and support of this work by our Governor and his Administration is evidenced of our shared principles that our diversity is our greatest strength, but to see one of our programs be recognized at a national level with awards such as this one, is truly honoring and humbling," said Maria Welch, chair of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs. "We realize here in Maryland we are contributing solutions of benefit to our nation, for the prosperous, healthy future all Americans deserve."

Maryland's New American workers are among the best educated and most skilled in the country. More than 40 percent of foreign-born Marylanders have a college degree. More than a quarter of the state's scientists, a fifth of the state's health care workers and a fifth of the state's computer specialists are foreign born. Despite these promising trends, one out of four skilled immigrants is working in unskilled jobs and 40 percent of immigrant adults are limited English proficient, resulting in lower wages and unutilized skills.

Earlier this month, Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law SB 167, Public Institutions of Higher Education - Tuition Rates - Exemptions, providing in-state tuition to Maryland high school graduates regardless of the immigration status of their parents. Maryland joins 11 other states, including California, Texas, New York and Utah, in extending affordable college to Maryland high school graduates, regardless of the immigration status of the students' parents, provided they have paid taxes in Maryland and are on a path to citizenship.

Also this month, the Maryland Department of Labor Division for Workforce Development and Adult Learning hosted training conferences for One Stop Employment Center personnel to educate staff about the challenges and needs facing New American workers. Over 50 DLLR employees completed the training.

The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. The E Pluribus Unum Prize was established in 2008 by MPI with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. The Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, the International Rescue Committee in San Diego and Temple University's Project SHINE were also honored.