The New Americans Celebration is the annual day of education and outreach for refugees, immigrants, and allied communities. For ten years, the Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies has organized this day that is devoted to elevating the stories and contributions of Georgia’s refugees and immigrants and advocating for a more welcoming state. On Tuesday, February 14th over 200 allies met at the Capitol and engaged with state lawmakers about upcoming legislation that will impact refugees and immigrants.
One of the most important pieces of legislation that is expected to be introduced during this legislative session is House Bill 131. This bill would ensure DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients would be eligible to receive “opportunity tuition,” a rate that is set by each institution at a price slightly higher than the in-state tuition rate. Passing HB 131 makes college access more attainable for DACA recipients which will in turn make our economy stronger and prepare more people to enter the workforce.
The other piece of legislation is mental health licensing reform. We called on legislators to modernize mental health licensing rules so that highly skilled, foreign-trained clinicians can re-enter practice and serve their Georgia communities. Diversifying the mental health workforce of Georgia will preserve Georgia’s economic health and better integrate global talent in our state. NAC attendees spoke with Georgia Senators and Representatives about these two issues and encouraged them to support both items.
After advocating for pro refugee and immigrant legislation all morning, the day concluded with a press conference. Several notable legislators spoke on behalf of refugees and immigrants including Representatives Dr. Michelle Au (50th District), Pedro Marin (96th District), Mary Margaret Oliver (82nd District), Long Tran (80th District), and Gregg Kennard (101st District). Afterwards several refugees and immigrants spoke about their experiences and why it is so essential to make Georgia a more welcoming state.
The day was a huge success, and we send special thanks to the Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies for organizing the day of advocacy. It is more important than ever to uplift and protect Georgia’s new Americans. As Representative Kennard said, “The more cultures we have, the more American we are.”
Reach out to your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to support legislation that will benefit refugees and immigrants. Head to Open States and enter your address to find out who your legislators are and how to contact them.