Washington, DC – Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM) is a nationwide effort to gather and share inspirational stories of immigration in America. IHM 2015 aims celebrate the USA’s immigrant heritage – stories of individuals, families, and communities who have contributed to the unique social fabric of the American nation, and the diversity that has fueled that greatness. The goal of the month is to encourage every American to tell the story of how they first felt welcomed to the American experience.
On June 2, as a part of Immigrant Heritage Month 2015, ‘White House Ethnic Day’ was held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The event was organized and co-hosted by the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Council (NDECC) in partnership with 19 organizations, including the Hungarian American Coalition.
Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to President Obama, gave welcoming remarks, followed by four briefing sessions on the following topics: White House Immigration Reform; personal immigration stories; the upcoming visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Washington DC; and a Foreign Policy Overview and Briefing.
At the first briefing, Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, briefed the audience on the latest news on the White House Immigration Reform. She was followed by Manar Waheed, Deputy Director for Immigration Policy who answered questions from the audience.
In the second briefing, different ethnic leaders reported on their own involvement in this issue. The moderator was Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute and President’s Appointee to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. The participants of the roundtable discussion were Barbara Anderson, Polish American Congress; Maya Berry, Arab American Institute; Alexandra Chalupa, US United with Ukraine Coalition, National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Committee (NDECC); Billy Lawless, of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform; and Samba Mamadou, Office of African Affairs, D.C. Mayor’s Office.
All speakers told their own immigration stories on how they, their parents or grandparents came to the US and how much they had to struggle to be here. Their stories portrayed the feelings, dreams and challenges of the immigrant experience.
In the third briefing, Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, talked about the upcoming visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Washington DC in September 2015. Ms. Rogers emphasized that their office is interested in the opinion of all communities and also welcomes suggestions on which topics should be addressed during Pope Francis’ visit.
The last briefing was a Foreign Policy Overview and Briefing provided by Michael Carpenter, Special Advisor to the Vice President for Europe and Eurasia, and Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, Russia and Central Asia National Security Council. The White House Ethnic Day closed with a luncheon reception for all the participating community leaders.
Prior to White House Ethnic Day, on June 1st, the IMH event was formally opened at a reception in Rayburn House Office Building, with remarks by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, other Members of Congress and leaders of ethnic American organizations.
The organizers of IMH 2015, were the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Council (NDECC) in partnership with the following organizations:
Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Africa Diaspora Coalition
American Jewish Committee
American Polish Advisory Council
American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights
Arab American Institute
Armenian National Committee of America
Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform
Friends of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus
Greek American Teachers Federation Association
Hungarian American Coalition
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
National Federation of Croatian Americans
Polish American Congress
Turkish Coalition of America
Turkish Heritage Organization
Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
United Macedonian Diaspora