Miami ranks 29th on a list of cities for how well it integrates immigrants, according to a new annual assessment by the bipartisan group New American Economy.
The ranking accounts for factors such as home ownership, employment and civic participation rates among legal immigrants in the 100 largest U.S. cities.
Miami was the only South Florida city ranked in the study and finished with high rates of economic empowerment and inclusivity for immigrants compared to other cities.
"We're setting [an] example for others to follow because when more new Americans have the opportunities, skills and status to excel, America also excels," said Republican U.S. congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Monday. She spoke at at Miami Dade College to commemorate Citizenship Day.
Ros-Lehtinen highlighted the study alongside Miami mayor Francis Suarez, state Rep. Javier Fernandez and Miami-Dade County commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava.
According to the New American Economy, the Cities Index evaluates integration among legal immigrants by "measuring local policies and socioeconomic outcomes." The assessment is meant to provide information on how communities can increase equality among immigrants and other U.S. born citizens. It does not account for how cities treat undocumented immigrants.
Miami finished behind major cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
The study shows Miami's foreign-born population includes more than 250,000 people. Its labor force participation rate for low-skilled immigrants is 57 percent, while for high-skilled foreign-born residents it's 74 percent. Immigrants in the city also have higher entrepreneurship rates than U.S. born citizens.
Still, foreign-born Miami residents make $6,000 less in median household income than their U.S. born counterparts. American residents also receive a high school diploma and bachelor's degree at higher rates than immigrants.
Levine-Cava praised Miami for its diversity of immigrants and cultures. But it must offer more educational opportunities for immigrants and do more to preserve their unique cultural identities, she said.
"We don't want people to be integrated to the point of extinction of their unique cultural and other attributes. So we have to find ways to really lift that up and then we will become a more inclusive society," she said.
The release of the assessment comes as Miami-Dade County honors detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The "detainers" keep undocumented immigrants in jail for an additional 48 hours after they have posted bond or served a sentence in order to give ICE time to pick them up. The county began honoring the requests last year, and mayor Carlos Gimenez has said the practice increases public safety.
Levine-Cava disagreed, noting that honoring the detainers send the wrong message to immigrants in Miami that "we really don't welcome people with open arms."
"While we have to be sure our community is safe," she said, "some of the people caught up in the detainer policy have committed offenses that really come from their status and not from any risk to the public."