National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Media

Miami’s Business Community Launches Innovative Citizenship Initiative

April 23, 2013

The InterContinental Miami, the Betsy Hotel and Miami-Dade College Participate in National Immigration Forum's Bethlehem Project

MIAMI, FL. —Today, the National Immigration Forum inaugurated Miami as the official launch city for “The Bethlehem Project”. Through this innovative citizenship promotion initiative, businesses partner with immigrant-service organizations like the International Rescue Committee to offer their immigrant employees on-site services such as English classes, civic instruction and legal assistance for citizenship applications.

The business community is increasingly leading the effort to integrate our nation’s aspiring citizens. Miami companies like InterContinental Hotel--Miami, The Betsy Hotel--South Beach and Miami-Dade College are taking their leadership to a new level by recognizing the value of investing in their immigrant workforce and promoting citizenship and integration in the workplace. While many opportunities exist for English learning, civics instruction and naturalization assistance at different sites like churches, community colleges and immigrant service organizations, virtually nobody integrates all three needs in one site like the workplace.

Immigrant employees praised the project because it adds the invaluable convenience of accessing citizenship assistance at their place of work.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen is a very important step to me because I feel that this country is my home,” said Ráquel Araujo-Escobar, an employee at InterContinental Miami. “Having my employer support me in this important step by providing citizenship assistance at my place of work is a true blessing."

Similarly, business leaders stressed the Bethlehem Project’s practicality and benefits to employees and companies alike.

“This program is easy to handle and coordinate. The Bethlehem Project supported us through the different stages of the program and provided flyers and easy-to-understand information that we could share with our staff in multiple languages,” said Nilmarie Almovodar, Human Resources Director at The Betsy - South Beach.

“With this partnership we are demonstrating to our employees that we care and support their best interests, and that we care for our community,” added Leonie Timothee of the Human Resources Department at The InterContinental Miami.

The city of Miami is a symbol of the convergence between business and immigration. Noted worldwide as an entrepreneurial city, Miami also boasts a significant immigrant population – with over 60% of its residents hailing from other parts of the world.

“In Miami-County we have over 520,000 individuals who are legal permanent residents who have not yet become citizens,” said Eduardo Padrón, President at Miami-Dade College. “Becoming a citizen not only provides you with greater responsibility for civic engagement and voting, but it also helps you and the companies involved to get a better return on your investment.”

The Bethlehem Project is designed to meet the needs of employees and the businesses they work for – on the one hand, hard-working immigrants achieve essential skills such as English language training that will increase their earning potential and allow them to fully engage as citizens in their new homeland. On the other hand, businesses will benefit from increased productivity from better trained workers.

“The Miami business community, many of whom are immigrants themselves, has long understood the importance of nurturing the innovation, energy and spirit of the immigrant community to build a more prosperous Miami,” noted Manny Díaz, Mayor of the City of Miami. “Today, we make another plea to our business community. Work with us as we try to bring these half-a-million citizen eligible residents in our community to become an even greater part of the American mainstream.”

“For hard-working immigrants in Miami, this assistance will mean the ability to realize the American Dream; for our partner businesses, this program will pay off in increased effectiveness and opportunities for advancement of their employees,” added Ali Noorani, Executive Director at the National Immigration Forum.

For more information and to join this groundbreaking initiative, please visit: www.joinbethlehemproject.org

Crossroads Campaign Solutions