August 24 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Effective integration of foreign-born Americans in the labor market is a critical economic, social, and political policy objective. Programs, practices, and policies designed to advance this objective seek to dismantle barriers that foreign-born Americans face in their quest to become productive members of their adopted societies. As part of their fellowship, the 2023 Fellows on Immigrant Integration at the Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy examined model programs that address challenges facing foreign-born Americans and that provide credential recognition, retraining, education, and access to capital to build thriving immigrant-owned businesses. They also examined the role of government, higher education institutions, and the nonprofit sector, as well as the role of cross-sector partnerships, in deepening and broadening the reach of these programs.

For this webinar, fellows shared their findings and discussed the characteristics, structure, and gaps in the service system that exists to advance the economic integration of foreign-born Americans in the New York State labor market.

Speakers

Robert J. Rodriguez

Robert J. Rodriguez

Secretary of State, New York State

Robert J. Rodriguez currently serves as New York’s 68th secretary of state following Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination.

Rodriguez is a uniquely accomplished leader and former legislator with civic and legislative successes focused strategically on investing in and developing public-good infrastructure projects, creating good-paying jobs, and addressing financial disparities for historically underrepresented minorities and low-income communities.

As a legislator, Rodriguez served as a New York State Assembly member for 11 years, representing Assembly District 68. During his time in the assembly, he focused on protecting and creating affordable housing, bringing good jobs into the community, and ensuring children received a quality education. He served as co-chair of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, founding chair of the assembly Subcommittee on Infrastructure, and member of Committees on Ways and Means, Housing, Labor, Banking, Corporations and Authorities, and Mental Health.

In the private sector, Rodriguez served as a director at Public Financial Management (PFM), the leading municipal financial advisor in the nation. Prior to PFM, Rodriguez was a vice president at AC Advisory, Inc. and held various management and operations roles at Bloomberg LP.

As a civic leader, Rodriguez served on several volunteer boards, including as chairman of Manhattan Community Board 11 and as a member of the board of directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

Rodriguez is a graduate of Yale University, where he received a BA in history and political science, and New York University Stern Business School, where he received an MBA in finance. He is also an emerging leader of the New America Alliance and the Council for Urban Professionals (CUP) Fellow.

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Dina Refki

Dina Refki

Executive Director, Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy

Dina Refki is the director of the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society (CWGCS) at the University at Albany. Refki studies and researches the interplay of gender with institutional structures in the US and international context. She applies gender mainstreaming and budgeting analysis from transnational perspectives. Prior to assuming leadership at CWGCS in 2009, she held different positions at the Center, including as director of the Immigrant Women & State Policy Program, which facilitated interagency collaboration, promoted dialogues with civil society and immigrant women at the state level, and worked to identify and address barriers to the integration of immigrant women in the social, economic, and political fabric of local communities. Refki studies the challenges of migration, the barriers facing immigrant women and their families, and the structural changes needed to better respond to the needs of immigrant women.

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Guillermo Martinez

Guillermo Martinez

Deputy Director & Intergovernmental Liaison, Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy

Guillermo Martinez is the deputy director and intergovernmental liaison for the Institute on Immigrant Integration Research and Policy. He brings over 20 years of significant leadership, management, and communications experience in both the nonprofit and government sectors. During his time in the New York State Legislature, he served as the director of policy development for the New York State Assembly Task Force on New Americans and legislative and communications director for the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, having served in that role as the longest tenured staffer in the organizations 35-year history. In those capacities, he helped research, draft, and negotiate over 200 pieces of legislation that are now state law, including programs such as the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute, the SUNY Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, the codifying of the Office of New Americans, the Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act, the Idle-Free School Zone Act, Geriatric Mental Health Act, the Undocumented Immigrant In-State-Tuition Act, the School Energy Efficiency Collaborative Act, the establishing of the New York Latino Research and Resources Network (NYLARNet), and dozens of other laws, including consumer protection measures addressing online privacy, disaster preparedness, protecting children with disabilities, and the elderly. Prior to his time in the legislature, Martinez served as director of communications and legislative affairs for the Council of Community Services of New York State and worked at SUNY Oneonta’s migrant education program (ESCORT) assisting migrant farmworkers with the educational needs of their children in a region covering 23 states.

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Panelists

Tsveta Dobreva

Tsveta Dobreva

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Tsveta Dobreva is a third-year sociology PhD student at the University at Albany. Her research interests include immigration, race, education, urban sociology, and belonging. Dobreva’s current research project looks to understand the role that skin tone and racial differences play in children of immigrants’ educational experiences and sense of belonging at school, in their community, and nationally. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Dobreva worked at a New Jersey-based legal organization assisting Darfurian asylum seekers in navigating the immigration system to obtain refugee status, develop language skills, enroll in college, and find jobs. In her native Bulgaria, she worked with an international NGO that was actively involved on a community level in assisting asylum seekers with their economic, social, and civic integration.

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Joaquín Sánchez Gómez

Joaquín Sánchez Gómez

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Joaquín Sánchez Gómez is an MA candidate in economics at CUNY’s City College of New York. He received a BA in economics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He’s been a research assistant at CUNY’s Graduate Center and a consultant at the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Mexican Senate, and several government agencies. Previously, Sánchez Gómez was a lecturer at UNAM’s School of Economics, where he taught Introduction to Economic Theory and Mexican Economy. He is a member of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, the Latin American Studies Association, and the Urban Economics Association. His research focuses on industrial policy, labor economics, and regional development. His most notable research was published by the ILO, UNAM, the Belisario Dominguez Institute, and one of the most prestigious economics journals in Spanish, El Trimestre Económico.

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Sohee Shin

Sohee Shin

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Sohee Shin is a sociology PhD student at Stony Brook University, where her research includes international migration, health disparities, life course perspectives, and social inequality. Throughout her PhD studies, Shin has focused on examining attitudes toward immigrants from the perspective of generational differences and exploring the impact of employment patterns on immigrants’ health throughout their lives. Shin worked at a local NGO in Germany, advocating for the residential rights of refugees. Previously, she worked as a research assistant at the Migration Research and Training Center (MRTC) in South Korea, concentrating on migration-related studies. Her research projects involved investigating the integration processes of diverse immigrant populations, such as refugees, labor migrants, and international students, within the European Union, South Korea, and the United States.

Currently, Shin’s research concentrates on understanding the spatial differences in the residential mobility of immigrants and the segregation experienced by Asian Americans. She aims to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that influence the settlement patterns of immigrant communities and the challenges they encounter in terms of spatial distribution and neighborhood composition.

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Ken Silverman

Ken Silverman

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Ken Silverman is a PhD student in political science at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, specializing in comparative politics and public policy. Sliverman’s current research focuses on comparative citizenship, migration politics, and international conditions’ role in migration policymaking. He has collaborated with the Center for Urban Research on voting patterns and civic engagement studies in New York City. Silverman designed and taught political science courses, including on immigrant integration, at CUNY Baruch, Hunter, and Queens Colleges. Silverman presented his original research on migration-related topics at the Japan Association of Migration Policy Studies, Midwest Political Science Association, and International Studies Association conferences. Prior to receiving his master’s of international affairs from CUNY Baruch College’s Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Silverman was an award-winning senior news producer at Japan’s largest private broadcaster, the New York Bureau of Fuji TV Network News, where he covered the United Nations as well as hundreds of international news events throughout Latin America and the US. Silverman is a recipient of the Presidential Research and Graduate Center Fellowships. He is also fluent in Japanese and Spanish.

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Asha Venugopalan

Asha Venugopalan

Immigrant Integration Fellow

Asha Venugopalan is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University. Her research lies at the intersection of group identities, prejudicial attitudes, and political communication. Prior to joining the doctoral program, Venugopalan was a researcher in India, where she developed large public opinion surveys to capture the sociopolitical attitudes of citizens during the inter-election period. She also holds an MSc in political science and political economy from the London School of Economics.

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