International Institute launches new Latino outreach program

By Nathan Rubbelke – St. Louis Inno editor, St. Louis Business Journal

The International Institute of St. Louis said Tuesday it has established a new Latino Outreach Program in an effort to make St. Louis a more attractive destination for immigrants from Latin America.

The multi-faceted initiative includes hiring a director to lead it, workforce development partnerships focused on job training and providing resources to help Latino immigrants get settled in St. Louis. The International Institute, which provides services to immigrants and refugees, said local attorney Jerry Schlichter is behind the new program and leading its funding. Schlichter is founding and managing partner of law firm Schlichter Bogard and founder and chairman of Arch Grants, the nonprofit that provides equity-free funding to startups.

A news release said Schlichter’s spearheading of the Latino Outreach Program is a “natural extension” of his work with the International Institute to bring immigrants from Afghanistan to the St. Louis region.


“Our community’s success in attracting Afghan immigrants over the past 20 months has given us a template for welcoming others from across the globe,” Schlichter said in a statement. “Our region has not only not grown, but we’ve declined in population, resulting in fewer opportunities and a lack of vibrancy. The immigrants St. Louis has welcomed have brought a work ethic along with their unique culture that have strengthened neighborhoods and made our community stronger. Our focus now on Latino countries is sending another message to the immigrants already in America that we want them to build their lives in St. Louis.”

The International Institute noted in a press release that its new Latino Outreach Program comes after the U.S. earlier this year said it was opening new immigration processing centers in Latin America.

“Latinos are arriving every month in the United States,” Arrey Obenson, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, said in a news release. “We have proven through the work of Jerry and several others in our community that we can offer opportunities to ensure anyone who has moved here from another country can succeed and prosper. In this case, the immigrants we seek to attract are already in the United States, making the process of getting them here a bit more streamlined.”

The International Institute said it has hired Karlos Ramirez to be vice president for Latino outreach. Ramirez most recently was vice president for community engagement and business development at Midwest BankCentre and previously was the longtime CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis. The International Institute said part of Ramirez’s role will involve visiting other cities to pitch St. Louis as a destination for Latino immigrants. It said it also plans to market the region through social media.

The Latino Outreach Program will also include a focus on job training and placement, with plans to partner with building, construction, and manufacturing trade unions on training initiatives. Assistance to immigrants will also be provided through the program, which will include a housing fund; free phone and internet service; language training; computer training; and legal and work authorization services.