According to research from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy, 1.6 million rural residents in the United States are foreign born—and more immigrants are moving to rural communities every year. Immigrant families move to rural communities seeking the same qualities and values cherished by long-term residents. They want good and safe schools, opportunities to work, an affordable place to live, and close-knit neighbors. But the “good life” can be out of reach for many immigrants, especially those living in poor and isolated rural places. At the same time, welcoming a host of residents from other cultures who have complex legal, language, and housing circumstances can be challenging — it’s a new situation for most rural leaders.
Please join us for this lunchtime panel for an engaging discussion about the demographic shift taking place in rural America and its implications for rural practice. The event will feature the release of a new report from the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy detailing the incidence and economic status of immigrants living in rural communities. You’ll also hear from philanthropic leaders and leading community development practitioners as they discuss how the changing face of rural America affects their work – and how they are forging new partnerships and embracing new ways of doing to advance economic security for rural immigrant families.
Jon Fox-Rubin, Executive Director, Valley Settlement Project
Jon Fox-Rubin is the Executive Director of the Valley Settlement Project, which centers on school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement for families in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. Through community organizing and partnerships with local nonprofits, schools and government agencies, Valley Settlement works to support and empower low-income families who are not successfully settled or attached to the community in which they live. Jon is an entrepreneur who has worked for 20+ years in both non- and for-profit organizations to address complex issues.
Ali Joens, Director of Homeownership Services, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP)
Ali Jones is Director of Homeownership Services at SWMHP, a housing agency serving 36 counties in rural southwest Minnesota. This region has seen an influx of immigrants and refugees over the years due to the low cost of living and opportunities for low-skill employment in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Ali has worked with SWMHP since 2001 and, in that time, has helped create and evolve programs to address the needs of the ever-changing population. Ali is responsible for the oversight of the SWMHP’s Homeownership Ownership Center, which provides homebuyer education, mortgage counseling, and financial coaching among other programs. In addition, she administers the Partnership Community Land Trust and the Community Building and Engagement Program.
Kenia Pinela, Family Coordinator, Valley Settlement Project
Kenia Pinela was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and brought to the United States at a young enough age to feel a sense of belonging in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the Valley Settlement Project is located. Kenia is a first-generation college student and a Family Coordinator at Valley Settlement, where she works to connect the organization’s ever-growing network of families and program alumni to professional development, community engagement, and continuous education opportunities. Her experience of becoming bi-cultural within her community allows her to help immigrant families settle and feel a sense of belonging in their new community.
Andrew Schaefer, Vulnerable Families Research Associate, UNH Carsey School of Public Policy
Andrew Schaefer is a Research Associate with the Vulnerable Families Research Team at the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy. Much of his work focuses on poverty, the social safety net, and women and work, including policies and programs that support low-income and other working families. Andrew is a co-author on Carsey’s forthcoming report on immigrants in the rural United States.
Aryah Somers Landsberger, Director of Programs, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR)
Aryah Somers Landsberger is Director of Programs at GCIR, where she develops programs and information resources to help funders increase knowledge and build skills to address the needs of the country’s growing and increasingly diverse immigrant and refugee populations. Aryah has over a decade of experience with immigrant and refugee issues, for instance, championing administrative and legislative protections for unaccompanied children as Director of Advocacy at KIND, and as a consultant co-authoring “Children on the Run,” a report on the root causes of migration of unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico to the U.S.