International Institute seeks volunteers to talk about how immigrants benefit St. Louis area

May 29, 2017

The International Institute of St. Louis is seeking ambassadors of sorts.

The organization that provides integration services for more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees each year is recruiting volunteers to help spread the word about how those foreign-born residents benefit the community.

President and CEO Anna Crosslin said her staff makes about 250 presentations a year and is unable to do more.

“Immigration has become such a predominant issue in the news, yet it’s an issue that people don’t necessarily understand, especially the basic facts,” she said. “We want to be able to help people learn more and then be able to share that information more widely in the community.”

Crosslin said the goal is to recruit 20 people this year to begin speaking in their communities, workplaces and churches, as well as other organizations.

“We thought this was a way to engage people, particularly people who may be known to some of these other groups and have a win-win for everybody,” she said.

An orientation session is scheduled from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday at the International Institute. Crosslin said attendees will learn about the vetting refugees must go through before being accepted into the U.S. and the economic impact that foreign-born residents have on the region.

“In metropolitan St. Louis there are 125,000 or 130,000 foreign-born individuals, but their economic impact in terms of entrepreneurism and tax dollars is in the millions and perhaps even billions of dollars,” she said.

As for refugees the organization is helping resettle, Crosslin said they expect about 640 in this federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The International Institute had planned for nearly 1,400 until President Donald Trump lowered the cap on refugees this year from 110,000 to 50,000.

Those interested in attending the orientation can learn more here.

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