Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick urged state residents to avoid getting mired in “the usual debate” over illegal immigration as he charged his cabinet with the task of crafting a better plan for integrating all foreign-born residents into the state’s daily fabric. And he wants it in 90 days. The governor’s address came at the unveiling of a State House report with 131 recommendations on ways to improve the lives of immigrants, the New Americans Agenda. Immigrants make up 14% of the state’s population.
The New Americans Agenda recommendations include expanded English classes and job training for any immigrant who needs them. The report also urged the governor to push for two steps that are sometimes considered controversial: extending in-state tuition at public colleges and driver’s licenses for immigrants here without legal authorization. Most immigrants in Massachusetts are documented. Nearly half are naturalized US citizens and more are legal residents; only about 1 in 5 are lack legal documentation.
These recommendations offer a remarkably pragmatic and humanitarian approach to immigrants. It is also remarkable in that it attempt to meet the needs of immigrants as people who are contributing to the daily life of the state.