RD635 - Virginia Office of New Americans Advisory Board Annual Report 2022-2023 – October 12, 2023

Executive Summary:

The Office of New Americans Advisory Board (as 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 third annual board report to the Honorable Glenn A. Youngkin 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 ONAAB defines “New Americans" as: New Americans refer to foreign-born persons residing in Virginia and their children, foreign and native born. The foreign-born population in the Commonwealth is estimated to be 1.1 million individuals or roughly 12.7% of the total state population.(*2) This fast-growing segment of Virginia’s overall population ranks as the 11thlargest immigrant population in the nation.(*3)

Two-thirds of all immigrants live in Northern Virginia, but sizable immigrant communities exist in Richmond, Roanoke, and other metropolitan areas throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, certain census tracts in Accomack, Rockingham and Lunenburg Counties have immigrant densities like many parts of Northern Virginia.

Additionally, Virginia is one of the top three recipients of Afghan refugees resettling in the United States. Virginia’s Office of New Americans have provided resettlement services to 9,565 Afghans as of August 22nd, 2022.

ONAAB has adopted the following Guiding Principles that provide an overarching focus regarding the work of the board.

• Recognizing our Value
• Ensuring Linguistic and Cultural Competencies
• Data Integrity
• Championing Representation

The Board maintains a committee structure that is flexible but allows for deeper analysis of the far-ranging and multifaceted issues that New American communities face in Virginia.

• 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 what supports are 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 impact New American communities in the Commonwealth.

The Board also has dedicated Language Access and Data Integrity leads in line with our Guiding Principles. In the last year, ONAAB members listened to key stakeholders, learned how to engage with legislators and communicate with state agencies, and collaborated with other advisory boards. ONAAB leadership surveyed key stakeholders across the state to identify unmet needs. We worked with the Virginia Latino Advisory Board (VLAB) and Virginia Asian Advisory Board (VAAB) to write a letter to the Governor about the importance of developing a statewide language access plan. To highlight the economic opportunities within New American populations, we have formed a committee with leaders from VLAB and VAAB to plan an international business symposium for spring of 2024. This work helped us form the following summary of recommendations.




Ensure that New Americans can access, understand, and use health related information AND that healthcare professionals understand how to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health information.

• Perform health literacy assessments of New American communities.

o Based on the results, determine best practices for ensuring New Americans have access to information they need to make good health decisions

• Perform cultural and linguistic competency assessments of healthcare providers.

o Based on the results, determine if Implicit Bias and Cultural Humility Continuing Medical Education should be a requirement for Virginia medical providers

o Ensure that all Medicaid eligible Virginians have access to dental health services.

• Create pathways and opportunities for more dental providers to be educated and offer services to Medicaid patients.

• Emphasize a diverse dental health workforce that reflects Virginia’s population.

• Increase Medicaid reimbursement rates so that more Virginia dentists will accept Medicaid insured patients.


Improve access to English language learning for refugees and immigrants in Virginia.

• Provide specific avenues for local literacy programs to gain access and utilize federal and state funding.

• Encourage public/private partnerships that could fund English classes and address barriers. For example, large employers of New Americans could partner with a literacy agency to provide onsite English for their employees.

• Dedicate one of the new Virginia Department of Education Lab schools(*4) to English Language Learning.

• Facilitate transition from ESOL programs to institutes of higher education by investing in Bridge Programs that address the English proficiency and college readiness needs of New Americans.

• Provide accessible information about associate and trade-based programs with a direct tie to the labor market and ensure high-demand courses are made known and open to diverse groups.


Workforce Development

• Through Budgetary action, provide funding to the Office of New Americans and the Department of Labor to study employment and educational history of New Americans to determine focus of career pathway programs, and New American capacity to fill employment gaps in the state.

• Through Budgetary action, provide funding to the Office of New Americans, the Department of Labor, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and the Department of Education to explore further opportunities to recruit New American talent and retain them through statewide employment initiatives.

• Through Budgetary action, provide funding to the Office of New Americans and the Department of Labor to review licensing and certification criteria and develop, translate, and disseminate career pathway maps.


U.S. Citizenship Recommendations

• ONA should highlight the existing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Citizenship Resource Material on the ONA website and in any other related state agency websites or materials.

• ONA should explore working directly with the USCIS Office of Citizenship and Applicant Information Services to use their resources, and/or develop other resources specific to Virginia, to promote naturalization at community events, meetings, etc.

• Through Budgetary Action, provide funding to the Office of New Americans to develop programs that will promote naturalization, highlight, and utilize existing USCIS Office of Citizenship Resources and Application Services, and provide technical support to those applying for citizenship.

Language Access Recommendations

• The Office of New American Advisory Board recommends that the Virginia Governor empower the Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion to create and provide oversight of a statewide language access plan, in partnership with the Office of New Americans and the Office of New Americans Advisory Board, that would provide guidance and expectations for agency and department language access plans throughout the government of Virginia. The state language access plan would also include procurement policies and the review of the Code for provisions that would limit or restrain the implementation of a state language access plan. This would then be accompanied by legislative action for compliance provisions.

• The Office of New American Advisory Board recommends that adequate funding be provided to fully staff the Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion to oversee the compliance of agencies and departments within the state language access plan. The ODOI would also be tasked with the periodic review of state language access plan for compliance with federal guidelines and current best practices.


• 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 on 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.


• Commission a new JLARC study to assess the integration of New Americans in the Commonwealth and update the findings from the 2004 report.

• Enhance the Office of New Americans budget to address expanded and unmet needs.

• Advisory boards had inconsistent access to resources and state staffing to assist with the management of the resources necessary to implement the opportunity.

The Board supports this recommendation for these reasons:

• During the Covid-19 state of emergency, the business of the administration was conducted effectively and in compliance with FOIA for the duration of the state of emergency.

• Online meeting platforms like Zoom, Goto Meeting, and Google Meets are now ubiquitous and employed with much success. Many of these services are free to access as attendees, and subscription costs are nominal for those hosting these online meetings.

• Employing electronic meeting resources makes the government MORE equitable and accessible while also preserving the FOIA requirement for recordkeeping and access.

• As an advisory body, the Board does not engage in any regulatory action or rulemaking.
(*2) U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2022, ACS 1-Year Estimates Subject Table S0501
(*3) Ibid.
(*4) Virginia Department of Education, Laboratory Schools Frequently Asked Questions