AICGS’ New Transatlantic Exchange Program for Young Minorities:
Giving Voice to Future Leaders

AICGS is pleased to announce its inaugural German-American youth exchange program on the theme “Immigration, Integration, and a New Transatlantic Generation.” As part of this new initiative, twenty young leaders from academia, media, business, politics, and society will take part in seminars and site visits in Washington and Berlin. The first part of the program in Washington, D.C., took place from October 12-15, 2015, and the second in Berlin will be held from May 1-4, 2016.

This innovative program will establish new connections between communities growing principally from an immigration background and address common challenges of integration such as unemployment, political and societal leadership, and international engagement. Project participants will include a core group of young leaders for intensive discussions and also interaction with the broader community of experts and advocates focused on issues of immigration, integration, and cross-cultural understanding.

AICGS is pleased to announce that this program has been extended. Click here for more information on the 2017-2018 program and how to apply.

This program is generously funded by the Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi) (Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany with Funds through the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Energy (BMWI)).

AICGS has two primary objectives for the program: (1) to deepen public understanding of the issues and concerns of the largest populations in Germany and the United States with an immigration background; (2) and to build and sustain a network of young leaders committed to transatlantic relations (Click here to see a member of the German Bundestag highlight the importance of the program in this context).

Activities comprise a conference and site visits in both cities. Participants at the conference will engage in small groups and interact with leading experts from minority umbrella organizations, government, research institutions, and political foundations. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit other institutions including cultural/historical sites, offices of elected representatives, and non-profit associations that focus on issues of the underrepresented.

The list of participants from Germany and the U.S. is available here. Read the bios of the participants here.
The participants gathered in Washington, DC, from October 17-21. Participants at the seminar engaged in small groups and interacted with leading experts from umbrella organizations dealing with immigration and integration, government, research institutions, and political foundations. They also had the opportunity to visit other institutions, including cultural/historical sites, offices of elected representatives, and non-profit associations that focus on issues of the underrepresented. The Berlin portion of the program will take place in May 2017.

Panel 1: Integration and Immigration Issues
The panel gave an overview of immigration to the United States with a special focus on the Hispanic population in the United States. In the United States, the largest group of immigrants comes from Mexico. The panelist also gave an overview of the future demographic changes the country faces as well as the changing set-up of the immigration flow from Latin America. Today, one out of four children in the United States is Hispanic. At the current rate of demographic change, there will be no white majority in the population forty-five years from now. Unauthorized immigration from Mexico decreased and there has been an increase in apprehended immigrants from other Latin American countries. It was also stressed that American public opinion toward immigration differs depending on economic performance, country of origin, and political orientation.

In the ensuing discussion the participants were interested in the assimilation and integration of immigrants in the United States. There was a consensus that found language skills as the predominant factor for a successful integration, as well as that the value of multiculturalism has increased. The topic shifted to the aspects that burden integration, such as the high costs for the citizenship application or discrimination. Integration in the United States is taking place at the community level, and traditional receiving communities have built up a welcoming culture that helps to integrate newcomers. With a changing settling pattern of immigrants in the United States, other cities still have to adjust to a more diverse population. The panel’s participants saw a need to challenge the current existing structures of the public attitude toward newcomers in both Germany and the United States. Another focus was put on the reasons for the lack of policy changes regarding immigration in the United States and the structural barriers immigrants and Hispanics face in political participation and representation. The group emphasized media representation of immigrants and the lack of communication among different immigrant groups as further reasons for a lack in political representation.

Panel 2: Public Health and Law
The panel introduced the history of immigration in the political rhetoric. In the 1970s, immigration was framed as an economic concern, giving way to concerns about law and order and culture in the 1980s. After 9/11, the dialogue focused on terrorism and national security concerns. The recent reform debates often focus on the legal status of immigrants.

Immigration law holds a lot of complexity; after tax law, it is the most complicated law in the United States. Especially when an immigrant is involved in any criminal act, it has implications for status or for getting immigration benefits. However, unlike criminal law, violators of immigration law do not have right to legal representation. Advocates have been pushing for comprehensive immigration reforms for years. While some recent reforms have been positive (for example, recognizing the importance of low-skilled work visas), the United States still needs comprehensive reforms.

Achieving comprehensive reforms is problematic, and this has much to do with messaging. For example, despite research that shows that immigrants raise economic opportunity for natives and that crime rates among immigrants are lower than crime rates among natives, political rhetoric (especially in the current election cycle) often presents a different story. Among advocacy groups, there is the unanswered question of what story could be told, and how, to make people be in favor of migration.

There is the need for a new narrative, one reaching out to the different concerns, be they economic, security, or cultural. Only a convincing and at the same time non-biased narrative will be able to successfully address populist messages and win public support.

Panel 3: Teaching English and Bilingual Education
In the third panel, the two panelists gave insights into their work at schools in the Washington, DC, area that focus on teaching English language skills to immigrants. It was laid out how English skills lead to job opportunities and better paid jobs for immigrants. English skills are seen as the first step toward a successful integration and application for citizenship. The biggest challenge for adult immigrants is to manage two to three jobs at the same time and still attend and commit to language classes. While the improvement of language skills is a priority for immigrants, a broader range of legal services is also necessary for a successful integration.

It was pointed out that the mentality and structure to provide language classes for migrants differs in Germany and the United States. In the United States, the language schools are public schools financed through taxpayers. This is based on the idea that successful language learners pay taxes when they get access to higher paid jobs. The group from Germany reported challenges especially concerning the recent refugee crisis. In Germany, investment in language classes for refugees with an undetermined immigration status is seen as a risky investment. The participants pointed out that for refugees in Germany it is hard to use and pay for public transportation to get to their language class.

The language schools both reported diverse student bodies in DC whose students are mainly driven by the desire to learn English. Comparing the United States and Germany, the group shifted its focus toward the importance of reaching out to potential new students and to the accessibility of classes due to public transportation and gentrification in cities. The group also saw challenges in how the receiving country categorizes different groups of immigrants and is willing to expose language learners to native speakers.

Panel 4: Integration in Business: Corporate Responsibility
Demographics in the United States are shifting. In 2015, there were 57 million Hispanics in the United States, and it is projected that by 2030 Hispanics will make up one-third of the U.S. population. This means that Hispanics have big buying power within the American economy. In 2015, $1.3 trillion in buying power was controlled by Hispanics, and often it is women making the decisions about how household money is spent. The median age of the white population is 43, for Hispanics it is 28. This will have a big impact on the future workforce. The educational attainment of Hispanics has changed tremendously within the last twenty years. The dropout rate used to be at 33 percent in 1993, whereas it was at 12 percent in 2014. In addition to that, more and more Hispanics enroll in institutions after high school. These developments are building up a growing talent pool.

This data is important for companies in two senses. It has a broad and expanding base of diverse consumers to target. And that means more than translating an advertisement into Spanish. It means including a growing group of educated, talented, and diverse individuals in the company structure at all levels. Representation of Hispanics at the highest levels of companies is lacking, but with the buying power of this community and the talent they represent, it is in the private sector’s interest to hire diversity.

Regarding advice for young, diverse applicants, it was stressed to not only seek out mentors, but also sponsors. Mentors provide advice and insights into the industry. Sponsors actively promote hiring those they are sponsoring. Often, corporate culture hires types with whom they are comfortable and familiar, so it is important to have sponsors inside companies that advocate for diverse hires at all levels.

Panel 5: U.S. Elections and Immigrant Communities
The panelist introduced the need to bring more resources to the Latino community in the United States in order to enhance political participation and representation. In regard to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, the growing Latino community that is eligible to vote can evoke fear among certain electorates. With a pivotal demographic change in the United States, the discussion focused on the parties’ need to recognize the Latino population and to provide access to party engagement for Latinos. The group discussed how the outcome of the presidential election would affect the Hispanic community and concluded that the complicated system of checks and balances is most likely to prevent any immigration reform, regardless of the election outcome.

A major discussion point was the low engagement of the Hispanic community in elections. Participants noted that the narrative of “your vote does not matter” in a two party system has to change in order to get Latinos to the polls. This narrative was found to discourage a large and very particular demographic group of young first or second generation immigrants from participating. This discussion provided a crash course in U.S. politics to the German participants. The German and American participants in the group found similar challenges in their countries regarding how immigrant groups can make their voices heard in a political system that is dominated by the white population. The focus then shifted to how some universities in the United States fail to deal with increasingly multicultural student bodies. To end on a more positive note, the group refocused on the growing professional Latino community and the improvement in educational access for Latinos.

Site Visit: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
There are currently 8 million people in the United States that are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. Even though the government embraces a positive view to see all immigrants as future citizens, the fear of the immigration test, the lack in English skills, and the fee for naturalization are considered as high obstacles for eligible immigrants. The federal government works to lessen these obstacles by providing better customer service and access to educational materials for potential citizens. Every year about 700,000 people become U.S. citizens and one million gain a permanent resident status. The numbers of applications for citizenship are increasing. Immigrants mainly originate from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia.

The integration of immigrants is mainly taking place on a community level in schools and at the workplace. With the changing pattern of immigrant settlement in the United States, some cities were taken by surprise by increasing immigrant populations and still need to develop welcoming communities. As an overall trend, however, cities rely on immigrants to impact the economy in a positive way. While the funding for immigration and integration is limited on the federal level, the states put more effort into immigrant integration as well as community and faith-based groups.

On the federal level, the economic, linguistic, and civic integration of immigrants is of high importance. Citizenship is promoted as the equalizer for all Americans. The work also includes a better outreach to immigrants in rural areas, the reduction of immigrant exploitation, and the development of immigrant integration plans in communities.

In the following discussion the participants were especially interested in the improvement of a better customer service of the federal government toward applicants. It was also clarified that while the fee for naturalization is a burden for many immigrants, it is a necessary service fee an applicant has to pay for his own application to be processed. The discussion also raised questions of the definition of homeland security and immigration. Participants learned that the federal approach sees a successful integration as a responsibility of the individual person’s effort.

Site Visit: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Germany views itself as an immigration destination and sees migration as a positive development. It was acknowledged that the country is still learning to deal with more diversity in its demographic set-up. Regarding Germany’s handling of the current refugee crisis, the officials acknowledged security concerns but highlighted the international respect Germany has garnered for welcoming refugees.

The discussion focused on the different definitions of integration and diversity when it comes to the German and the American point of view. There were two main differences: first, the short versus long immigration experience of Germany and the United States and, second, the government-driven versus the community-driven processes of integration in both countries. For the German participants of Turkish descent, the question of the current Turkey crisis and the experience of being Turkish in Germany was an important issue. This question led to a debate over how segregation is handled in Germany and in the United States and how loyalty to the native and the host country does not have to be mutually exclusive.

The debate shifted to political representation of immigrant groups in Germany and the government’s approach to make minorities more visible in Germany. In Germany, the integration process takes time and people with a migratory background fill political ranks slowly. The approaches toward assimilation and multiculturalism in Germany were also challenged. While the German government favors multiculturalism, it sees a need that all groups execute the rule of the German laws regarding discrimination or the equality of men and women. The discussion was concluded in agreement that the long-term development for immigration and integration in Germany is a positive one.

Site Visit: Congress
If there is one thing that both political parties can agree on in the United States, it is that the U.S. immigration system is broken. In 2013, the Gang of Eight senators (four Democrats and four Republicans) worked together to propose a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. While the bill passed in the Senate, it was not introduced in the House of Representatives. It brought immigration reform back into the spotlight, and lawmakers are hopeful that after the election, the new administration will move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. Comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, legal reforms are vital to a sustainable and effective immigration policy. If only one group benefits, it is unlikely, due to the slow-moving nature of legislation, that other groups will ever see benefits of their own.

Priorities for the office in immigration reform were border patrol, enforcement, high skilled visas, and paths to documentation and citizenship for 11 million undocumented people living in the shadows. Legal rights for those apprehended by border patrol were especially emphasized. Many are fighting for the end of private prisons, which have bad records on human rights. The Department of Justice no longer uses private prisons; however, the Department of Homeland Security (the agency in charge of immigration) still employs private prisons. Currently, those arrested for violating U.S. immigration laws are not allowed lawyers. This is especially problematic for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors. Lawmakers are working to ensure that immigration reform includes access to counsel and ensures human rights and safety of those in custody of immigration officials.

Site Visit: Skype Call with City of Detroit Councilmember Raquel Castañeda-López
In this Skype call with the first Hispanic woman elected to Detroit’s city council, the participants got the chance to learn more about the city of Detroit, Michigan, and the work of minority representation in an elected office. The former social worker explained how she established an immigration task force with an accessible language program for the city. As a minority majority city, Detroit has a large welcoming community for newcomers.

Participants were interested in how to overcome the barriers that immigrants face when it comes to elected office. The wish to represent a community, compassion, and integrity due to immigration background were seen as the most important motivational factors to run for elected office. The panelist introduced the triangle concept for sufficient development of new policies which is a balanced approach of (1) policies, (2) grass root organizations, and (3) elected officials. In a city with a 30-40 percent poverty rate as well as unemployment, the focus shifted to Detroit’s water and housing issue as a class issue. Despite the fact that immigrants face higher obstacles, participants were motivated to engage themselves in politics and learned that adapting to the established system of policymaking and having the chance to influence policies are important skills in this field.

Site Visit: Migration Policy Institute
The final site visit focused on integration of migrant communities through education and the labor market. The American and German systems use different frameworks in both education and labor market integration. The United States education system uses a data-driven and linguistic framework when referring to immigrant students. The German system, on the other hand, has far less data on its immigrant populations, and identifies students based on the citizenship of their parents. In the German education system, a student’s “diverseness” does not go away once they learn the language, whereas in the United States a student is seen as integrated once he or she is no longer an “English language learner.” Both countries face the challenge of providing education to refugees and other marginalized groups with uninterrupted education.

The United States and Germany have different approaches to labor market integration. The United States follows the “work first” model, and Germany follows the “train first” model. The work first approach offers migrants employment, but does not offer training or allow migrants to develop skills that will allow for them to be upwardly mobile. The German train first method has a higher barrier to entry; migrants need money to support themselves and their families and often cannot afford to be involved in a training program that does not pay.

Aside from education and economic integration, migrants also need holistic support that accounts for mental health and other challenges that migrants face. This is where civil society comes into play. Civil society groups can provide support and community to newcomers and perhaps even build trust in integration and immigration systems. It is often difficult to lose sight of the full picture of the challenges that any migrant faces, and civil society is vital in welcoming migrants and providing services outside of traditional institutions.

The list of participants from Germany and the U.S. is available here. Read the bios of the participants here.
On October 13, 2015, AICGS convened four panel discussions with the participants of the AICGS New Transatlantic Exchange Program for Young Minorities: Giving Voice to Future Leaders. The first panel included the Director of a Pew Charitable Trust project on Immigration and the States Adam Hunter and the National Director for the Islamic Society of North America Sayyid Syeed. The second panel was led by Kelly Richter, Executive Action Policy Fellow at the National Immigration Law Center, and Liliana Ranon, Associate Director, AAPI & Latino Affairs in the Office of Intergovernmental & External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The third panel discussion was conducted by the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Washington English Center Mary Spanarkel and Senior Advisor to Bellwether and former DC Deputy Mayor of Education Victor Reinoso. The fourth panel was led by Dr. Lisette Garcia, the Senior Director of Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR). Find the program agenda here.

Panel 1: Integration and Immigration Issues
The participants were especially interested in Islamophobia in the United States. Panelists gave examples of how Christian and Jewish communities spoke out against the animosity toward Muslims and shamed anti-Muslim rhetoric. To deal with Islamophobia, they explained, it is important to band together and communicate with other communities, because communication is the means to resolve fear and misunderstanding. Integration can also come from within, for example, when an organization only employs imams that speak English and have lived in the country for at least a few years. The discussion also shifted from the practice to the policy. In today’s environment, those involved in policymaking regarding immigration see more initiatives and activities at the state and local levels while the federal government takes longer to implement its policies. Because of this, much policy work is now focusing on these lower levels of government rather than the federal level so that local and state governments can be as informed as possible before making policy decisions on immigration.

Panel 2: Public Health and Law
In this discussion, it was clear that the two topics of public health and law were closely intertwined, especially with regard to the undocumented community. Panelists addressed the resources available to provide for the mental health needs in the Latina/o community stemming from gang violence and effects of immigration. Part of the ten essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mental screening gives the immigrant community access to such services. There are services that focus on behavior health, educating immigrant communities about the importance of mental health, and the importance of discussing these issues that affect an individual’s well-being with the immigrant community. Many of the participants asked about what immigrants who are afraid because of their legal status can do about receiving health care. Ms. Ranon discussed the vital role of community health centers, which provide care regardless of status if people do not have access to government-provided care. The discussion also led to comparisons between the European refugee crisis and illegal immigration in the United States. The women and children coming from Central America are put in jail-like conditions when they arrive in the United States, due to the painstaking administrative and judicial process. Part of the problem is the overloading of the immigration court systems. Increasing the number of judges who deal with immigration cases would fast-track the process.

Panel 3: Teaching English and Bilingual Education
Most of the discussion centered on how one’s native language is an important part of an individual’s cultural identity, and that it should be protected, not silenced, in the education system. One participant raised the issue of family support for English-learners. Parents play a huge role in influencing their child’s attitude in school. Many immigrant parents resent the popular English immersion programs, because they phase out native languages, which are a source of pride. Bilingual schools allow students to retain and advance their native language, while also improving their English or German. Another large segment of the discussion was devoted to an exploration of racism in the United States and Germany, and how language plays a powerful role in perpetuating negative stereotypes. The way the government controls language and culture, it was argued, is through schooling. The main takeaway is that bilingual education is far more effective in terms of integration and immigrant attitude. Research supports bilingualism, which is proven to help cognitive functions. The main inhibitor to more bilingual programs is fear. People fear what they do not know, and that includes foreign languages.

Panel 4: Integration in Business: Corporate Responsibility
The discussion focused on how to incorporate minorities in the corporate sector by both encouraging companies to hire more diversely and encouraging young minorities and immigrants to aspire to work in the corporate world. Many companies have community service projects and chapters in various cities around the country that can come into schools to motivate and inspire children of immigrant communities. The commitment to diversity and being honest during the representation assessment within companies are important because the Hispanic/Latino community is the fastest growing population in the United States. A lot of companies say they support diversity but do not commit to it consistently. Additionally, it was stressed that the leaders of the company should be vocal about their support for a diverse workforce so that the commitment to diversity trickles down to all levels of management. Currently, statistics show middle-level management is hindering the representation of minorities in corporate America.

On 3 May 2016, AICGS convened in Berlin four panel discussions with the participants of the AICGS New Transatlantic Exchange Program for Young Minorities: Giving Voice to Future Leaders. The event was part of the continuation of the new AICGS program, which began in October 2015 in Washington, DC. The first panel included Mekonnen Mesghena, Department Head Migration and Diversity, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, and Christina Krause, Coordinator for Refugees and Migration, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The second panel was led by Ulrich Weinbrenner, Head of the Department for Integration, Federal Ministry of the Interior, and Serhat Karakayali, Member of the Department “Foundations of Migration and Integration Research,” Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research. The third panel discussion was conducted by Cordula Simon of the City Council of Neukölln, Berlin, and the fourth panel featured Katharina Dermühl of Migration Hub. Find the full program agenda here.

Panel 1: Immigration and Politics

After the panelists gave a brief overview of the history of immigration and integration in Germany, the discussion centered on the current refugee situation in Germany and Europe and the resulting politics of identity. The newly arrived refugees are faced with a different situation than immigrants in the past. The paradox of the European Union (EU) is its open borders, freedom and justice system and the interest in maintaining its sovereignty, security, and a functioning labor market. Germany with its open border policy in favor of the refugees has stepped outside of the general EU policies. National politics collide with EU politics. It is also important to realize that different countries have different resources and capacities. Studies have been conducted to monetize the effect refugees will have on Germany. The per capita costs to accommodate one million refugees is negligible. An aging Germany can benefit from immigration but the current refugee influx will not make a difference in the population decline. The mentality in Germany, however, has somewhat changed from being opposed to being an immigration country to proclaiming “Wir schaffen das!”

It was noted that true integration and the Germans’ welcoming efforts are two different things. Germany differs from the United States when it comes to having a national identity; different notions of identity exist. The integration law (Zuwanderungsgesetz) is an extension of the citizenship law in Germany, which is based on blood relations (ius sanguinis), not place of birth (ius soli) like in the United States or France, which nevertheless appears broken as an immigration country. Integration is a process in both countries.

The content and idea of integration classes in Germany were discussed: should they demonstrate differences of societies or should they aim to empower those seeking refuge in Germany? There are certain fears that German society harbors toward refugees, including the fear of Islam. Muslim religious education is increasing in Germany. It was noted that the flexible workforce education system in Germany will benefit refugees and citizens alike. Currently, the government’s focus is on the labor market and pensions, but the government could do more with education politics and focus on the next generation of immigrants who will live almost their entire lives in Germany.

The government takes the issue of integration seriously. One example is the Sachverständigenrat für Immigration und Integration, which was recently created. Ultimately, the recent increase in migration to Germany, both from Europeans within the Schengen Zone looking for better economic opportunities and from refugees fleeing conflict and poor living situations, as well as the debate surrounding the new integration law have forced Germans to confront perceptions of their own identity. Germany must find ways to come to terms with itself as a country of immigrants and bridge structural gaps to create a more inclusive society.

Panel 2: The Challenges and Opportunities in Immigration and Integration

The efforts and policies of the interior ministry regarding integration were outlined and discussed. A special unit is responsible for social cohesion and integration and puts stronger effort on the integration of newcomers. Several units deal with issues of Muslim religion, demography, and Muslim representation in the Armed Forces. Religion, political education, asylum situation, language, and integration courses are part of the work. The government delineates which individuals arriving in Germany will be able to benefit from the integration measures. Migrants from some countries, like Syria and Eritrea, benefit from an accelerated process; others do not, like Afghanistan, Algeria, Morocco. The efforts focus on a variety of issues, including social benefits, labor market preparation, housing distribution (Wohnsitzzuweisung) to the federal states.

A discussion about terminology followed, especially concerning “integration” and “migrant.” The term integration is as such problematic, a technical term that has traditionally not been used to describe individual behavior. In Germany, it has been in use since 2000 in relation to foreigners and Muslims. Germany has seen a discussion of religious and personal identity since the 1990s. Germans tend to drastically overestimate the number of Muslims living in Germany. The word migrant does not apply to individuals from all nations. Individuals from Sweden, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom are not referred to as migrants but as expatriates. The use of these terms points to identity issues in Germany and the view the country has of different nations and people. It can be observed that the attitude of Germans has changed towards immigrants: when the majority of those who showed compassion, empathy, and support for refugees used to be those politically left of center, they now represent a broad range of political leanings. Contact with refugees changes attitudes and has a positive impact on the German population and should be supported broadly. It was noted that social cohesion is a utopian state that cannot be fulfilled completely. The Scandinavian countries come closest to an ideal version; however, this has been challenged recently due to their problems to integrate and accept migrants. Acceptance of diversity and tolerance are key aspects of social cohesion. Programs sponsored by the government’s interior ministry are in place to combat racism but the results are not convincing. The labor market plays an important role and more needs to be done.

Panel 3: Integration and Communities

Berlin has a high number of very diverse communities and the district of Neukölln does not proclaim one message about what it means to be German. This is because Neukölln is the most diverse neighborhood in Berlin, with 35,000 people from over 150 countries. However, the district government works with an imbalance among their staff due to a hiring freeze that had been in place for twenty years, resulting in most staffers being white, ethnic Germans with a specific generational perspective on immigration and diversity. Going forward, the city employees will be more representative of their citizens concerning age, gender and ethnic background. The city has worked with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to bridge the existing gap, however, and several programs are in place, e.g., Stadtmütter (City Mothers), who provide language and bicultural assistance to parents and children in local schools, or the concept of Integrationslotse (integration pilot), who work in the community to assist people of different backgrounds. Migrants or refugees/newcomers are often wary of bureaucracy and authority. It is considered a success when a Roma family calls the police to file a complaint about an issue, because it means that not only does the family know their rights, but they also trust the system to give them solutions. Because of this wariness, Neukölln works with NGOs and community groups to build trust and foster integration between groups. Faith groups are especially important for fostering dialogue between different groups. Interreligiöser Treffpunkt is a Jewish, Protestant, and Muslim group where congregations can meet each other, reach out to each other, and have discussions about religion and inclusivity at a person-to-person level. An ethnic hierarchy exists, where newcomers start at the bottom. Integration efforts include sanctions like withholding child allowances if the child is not enrolled in school. The graduation rate among immigrants is very low in Neukölln and the city is trying to improve the situation.

Panel 4: Immigration and Society

The influx of refugees in the summer of 2015 occasioned a major challenge for German bureaucracy in providing support for new migrants, but it also unleashed the potential of citizen volunteers looking to provide solutions to the “refugee crisis.” Every week, people across Germany, Europe, and the Middle East are creating new initiatives and technologies to provide support to refugees; however, these initiatives were not working with one another to exchange ideas and learn about what initiatives are working in different sectors to support refugees in Germany. Migration Hub was created as a way for initiatives, innovators, and volunteers to come together in a communal working space to exchange ideas, network, and provide services to refugees.

While innovators’ and volunteers’ enthusiasm is mostly positive, their attitudes come with their own sets of challenges. Many initiatives are often created just for the sake of innovating or because there is a perceived need, but often groups do not work with actual refugees to discuss their real needs. Groups also try to create new social networking platforms exclusively for refugees when traditional networks such as Facebook and Twitter already provide the utility that refugees need when communicating with their networks. If a group is not going to directly engage with refugees and include them in developing initiatives, the initiatives simply have no future and crowd an already crowded space. Despite these challenges, Migration Hub has brought together groups of many people working on many issues that refugees face, for example, how to formally apply for asylum, obtain housing, enroll in education, become employed, and learn about German bureaucratic and legal systems. Migration Hub is currently working in Europe and slowly expanding to the Middle East and North Africa, but sees an opportunity to grow in other areas of the world that are experiencing migration.

AICGS is a Washington-based, independent, non-profit public policy organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University that works in Germany and the United States to address current and emerging policy challenges in the German-American and transatlantic relationships, and Germany’s role in global affairs.
AICGS stellt ein neues deutsch-amerikanisches Austauschprogramm zum Thema “Immigration, Integration und eine neue transatlantische Generation” vor. Das Programm bringt zwanzig junge Menschen, die sich in Deutschland und den USA in den Bereichen Gesellschaft, Politik, Wirtschaft, Wisschenschaft und den Medien in Führungsrollen engagieren und die wenig oder keine Erfahrung mit den transatlantischen Beziehungen haben, für zwei Tagungen nach Washington und Berlin.

Dieses innovative Projekt, welches durch das Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi) finanziert wird, soll neue Verbindungen zwischen wachsenden Bevölkerungsgruppen mit Migrationshintergrund herstellen und sich mit wichtigen Themen wie Erwerbslosigkeit, politische und soziale Führungsrollen und internationales Engagement auseinandersetzen. Projektteilnehmer sind eine Kerngruppe von jungen Menschen, die zu intensiven Diskussionen zusammenkommen und gleichzeitig die Gelegenheit haben, sich mit einer Gruppe von Experten zu den Themen Immigration, Integration und kulturübergreifende Verständigung auszutauschen.

AICGS verfolgt zwei Hauptziele mit dem Programm: (1) eine Vertiefung des allgemeinen Verständnisses bezüglich der Situation der größten Bevölkerungsgruppen mit Migrationshintergrund in Deutschland und den USA und der Herausforderungen, die sich ihnen stellen; (2) der Aufbau eines Netzwerkes von jungen Menschen mit Führungspotential, die sich für die transatlantischen Beziehungen einsetzen.

Programmaktivitäten bestehen aus jeweils einer Konferenz sowie Ortsbesichtigungen in Washington und Berlin. Konferenzteilnehmer werden sich in kleinen Gruppen engagieren und sich mit führenden Experten aus Regierungskreisen, Forschungsinstitutionen, politischen Stiftungen und Dachverbänden, die sich für die Belange von unterrepräsentierten Gruppen einsetzen, austauschen. Teilnehmer werden auch die Möglichkeit haben, zum Thema wichtige historische Stätte, Sitze von Regierungsvertretern und Nichtregierungsorganisationen zu besuchen.

Die ausgewählten Bewerber müssen an beiden Tagungen teilnehmen. Die Tagungen finden vom 11. bis 15. Oktober 2015 in Washington DC und vom 1. bis 4. Mai 2016 in Berlin statt. Reise- und Hotelkosten sowie verschiedene Mahlzeiten werden von AICGS übernommen.

Das American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) ist eine unabhängige, gemeinnützige Organisation, welche die Beziehung zwischen den Vereinigten Staaten und Deutschland vor dem Hintergrund stetiger Entwicklungen und Veränderungen auf europäischer und globaler Ebene stärkt. Angegliedert an die Johns Hopkins Universität bietet AICGS ein umfassendes Programm mit öffentlichen Konferenzen, Forschungsberichten, Networking Events und Forschungsstipendien, um die Interessensgruppen des Instituts aus Politik, Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft zu fördern.