June is Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States. Immigrant Heritage Month is an initiative put forward by the I Am An Immigrant foundation that seeks to celebrate our shared heritage as an immigrant nation and the important contributions to our economy, culture and common identity by immigrants from all around the world.

The celebration formally began in 2014 and seeks to give immigrants and refugees in our country the opportunity to explore and celebrate their background as well as to create awareness on how diversity and immigration are both essential elements of our social fabric.

Currently, about 13% of the U.S. population is of recent immigrant origin. Immigrants contribute in incredibly important ways to our society. Economically, this 13% immigrant segment actually overrepresents itself by contributing about 15% of the country’s economic output. According to a recent study by New American Economy, 28% of new businesses in the country were founded by immigrants.

Another study shows that about 40% of companies on the Forbes 500 list were created by immigrants or by children of immigrants. Companies such as Google (founded by Sergei Bryn from Russia), Yahoo (founded by Jerry Yang from Taiwan), eBay (founded by Iranian/French entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar) and many more have made radical innovations to our way of life that couldn’t have been possible without the immigrants that built them.

And immigrant contributions are not limited to our economy. The cultural landscape of America has been shaped by immigrants for years and they are starting to be recognized at the highest levels. For example, the last three consecutive winners of the Academy Award for Best Director have been Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, three immigrants from Mexico and Kehinde Wiley, the son of a Nigerian immigrant became the first African-American to paint a presidential portrait.

Many celebrities are also sharing their stories of immigration and success as part of Immigrant Heritage Month. Uzo Aduba, star of Orange is the New Black and daughter of Nigerian refugees, shared her reasons for taking part in the campaign:

“This Immigrant Heritage Month, I celebrate the millions of immigrant mothers, like my own, who endured sleepless nights and an uncertain future so that their children could pursue the promise of America.”

The video below features many celebrity immigrants encouraging others to join in on the monthly festivities.

This year, the celebration is more relevant than ever, as many immigrants have been unfairly maligned in the current political climate. The I Am An Immigrant foundation has also launched the #IStandWithImmigrants initiative, which will run for an entire year and seeks to give a platform to individuals, companies and organizations that want to take a stand and support their immigrant employees, colleagues, friends and neighbors.

Companies have also stepped up their game in recent years to show solidarity towards immigrants and refugees. Chobani founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, an immigrant from Turkey, began a program to hire refugees that were settling near the Utica, New York region, close to the Chobani facilities. The UPS foundation also recently donated over 14 million dollars to a collection of NGO’s working on behalf of refugee safety and relocation efforts.

Remitly has steadily supported immigrant causes throughout the years. Recently, our CEO Matt Oppenheimer testified before congress to defend remittances and along with New American Economy, Remitly also participated in the iMarch for Immigration series of events to discuss different ways in which comprehensive immigration reform could be attained.

How to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month?

Throughout the month of June, there are many ways you can celebrate and share your immigrant heritage.

The I Am An Immigrant foundation is holding several events throughout the country, so make sure to check their website to find an event near you. The foundation is hosting parties, cultural events, roundtables and discussions to Celebrate Immigrants, their contributions and their culture throughout the entire month in different cities. In San Francisco, the foundation will also be hosting the 2018 Immigrant Leadership Awards, while Washington D.C. will host a public art demonstration Celebrating Immigrants.

Cities around the country are also joining in on the celebrations independently. Philadelphia and New York will be offering readings and multicultural events in their public libraries throughout the entire month of June.

If you are an immigrant, the foundation also wants you to share your history (and your family’s) on social media with the hashtags #iamanimmigrant, #celebrateimmigrants and #immigrantheritagemonth.

The foundation also invites allies to participate and take a public stand on social media with the #IstandWithImmigrants campaign to support one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society, not only during the month of June but as a constant show of solidarity.

And finally, Remitly would also like to recognize the hard work of our users to get money home to their loved ones in their country of origin. We have been honored to read your stories of sacrifice through our #WhyISend campaign and to help you keep your promises every time you use our service. Furthermore, we’ll be sharing stories throughout the month that celebrate immigrants in the United States and their heritage. So stay tuned!

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