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One State Lawmaker Wants to Establish an Office of New Americans

AP Photo / Steve Helber

Lawmakers are considering an effort aimed at helping immigrants who move to Virginia.

The Office of New Americans. That would be the name of the new agency, which would have two employees and be part of the Department of Social Services.

Senator Ghazala Hashmi of Richmond has a bill that would set up the new office to help people navigate the citizenship application process and provide assistance securing housing and employment.

“It is going to be an agency that helps immigrants navigate the various bureaucracies we have, whether that’s finding appropriate housing, establishing their small businesses," she says. "So many immigrants to our Commonwealth are small business owners, and they’re a very important part of our economy.”

Chad Stewart at the Commonwealth Institute says similar offices in other states help connect immigrants to jobs that match their skill sets. 

“Virginia immigrants are more likely to hold bachelors or advanced degrees," Stewart explains. "But they’re more likely to also be under-employed in jobs that don’t use all their level of education. This office would hopefully bridge that gap.”

The cost of the new office would be around $300,000 a year — a potential stumbling block for the effort as lawmakers work towards balancing the books at the end of the General Assembly session.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.