RD636 - Virginia Office of New Americans Advisory Board Annual Report 2020-2021 – October 15, 2021

Executive Summary:

The Office of New Americans Advisory Board (ONAAB) was created in 2020 under § 2.2-2496 and established as an advisory board, within the meaning of § 2.2-2100, in the executive branch of state government. The purpose of the Board is to advise the Governor, cabinet members, and the General Assembly on strategies to improve state policies and programs to support the economic, linguistic, and civic integration of new Americans throughout the Commonwealth.

The ONAAB is pleased to submit the first annual board report to the Honorable Ralph H. Northam and the Virginia General Assembly. Pursuant to §2.2-2498 of the Code of Virginia, this report serves as a summary of its activities, findings and recommendations.

The foreign-born population in the Commonwealth is estimated to be 1.084 million individuals or roughly 12.7% of the total state population. This fast-growing segment of Virginia’s overall population ranks as the 10th largest aspiring and new American population in the nation.

The ONAAB held its first meeting in January of 2021 and the initial work was focused on the creation of a solid foundation with realistic goals. Therefore, the ONAAB has adopted the following Guiding Principles that provide an overarching focus regarding the work of the board.

• Addressing the Narrative
• Ensuring Linguistic and Cultural Competencies
• Data Equity
• Championing Representation

Based on the Board’s recognition that the issues impacting the New American communities are far ranging and multifaceted, the Board has adopted a committee structure that will be flexible but allow for the deeper dives into the issues confronting these communities.

• Access to Services Committee - This committee will focus on building awareness of the specific barriers that newcomers face in accessing services and resources.

• Economic Opportunity Committee - This Committee will explore the economic landscape and review supports provided by the Commonwealth for workforce development and entrepreneurs.

• Inter / Intra Governmental Affairs Committee - This Committee will explore the interconnectivity of governmental policy and changes to those policies that will impact the aspiring and New American communities in the Commonwealth.

The ONAAB also has taken the important step of defining “New Americans." The definition was not specified in the authorizing code therefore as it pertains to the work of the board:

New Americans refer to foreign-born persons residing in Virginia and their children, foreign and native born.

The ONAAB has not had the necessary time to begin the more in-depth work of the committees, however the board has been able to identify several recommendations that would enhance the work of the ONAAB and the Office of New Americans.

Office of New Americans Advisory Board Recommendations

• Amend the Code to allow for more meetings per year.
• Amend the Code to raise the number of appointed non legislative citizen Board members to twenty-one.
• Amend the Code to include additional ex-officio members to the Board.
• Amend the Code governing Freedom of Information Act to allow for electronic meetings for subcommittee work of advisory boards as defined by Code § 2.2-2100.

ONAAB Recommendations for the Office of New Americans

• Commission a new JLARC study to assess the integration of New Americans in the Commonwealth and update the findings from the 2004 report.
• Elevate the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion to Secretariat level.
• Position the Office of New Americans for better impact.
• Enhance the Office of New Americans budget to address expanded and unmet needs.
• Support the Office of New Americans through continued support from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion