Saturday, December 31, 2005

BadgerCare to help pregnant immigrants

Delivering healthy babies has to be much cheaper than dealing with all the problems at their birth and later. Babies of mothers who get no prenatal care often have physical and developmental problems all their lives. DP

Healthy babies will cut costs
By Judith Davidoff
The Capital Times, Low-income immigrant women who become pregnant don't have many good health care choices.

Ineligible in many cases for Medicaid, and unable to afford out-of-pocket medical costs, they often forsake standard prenatal care.

But Wisconsin is now offering up another option. Starting Jan. 1, immigrant women who don't qualify for Medicaid will be able to access prenatal care under the state's BadgerCare program.

Women in prison will also be eligible for the services.

"It is a really important public health step," said Andy Heidt, co-chair of Covering Kids & Families, a coalition of health-related agencies and organizations. "Quality prenatal care means better birth outcomes, which mean less neonatal intensive care."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Opponents say denying immigrants services won't solve Colorado woes

Most of these people come here to work, not to live on welfare services. They don't even think of it, it is not something they are used to and many don't even realize these services exist. DP

By STEVEN K. PAULSON Associated Press Writer
Jackson Hole Star Tribune: DENVER (AP) -- A ballot proposal that would bar illegal immigrants from receiving government services won't solve any problems and could end up costing taxpayers, opponents said Thursday in the first salvo of a fight that is expected to dominate Colorado next year.

"This is a national problem. It can't be solved at the state level, and any effort to do so is bound to backfire on Colorado taxpayers," said Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell Policy Center, a liberal think tank.

A recent study compiled by the center determined that legal and illegal immigrants add about $10 billion to the U.S. economy each year. He said most come here to work, not apply for government services, which is the target of the initiative.

The November 2006 ballot proposal would bar services beyond those required by federal law to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen. It would apply to state agencies and all local governments and special districts. It also would allow citizens to sue state or local governments that refuse to enforce it.

The plan is being pushed by Defend Colorado Now, a group of conservatives formed to fight illegal immigration. A similar proposal failed to make the Colorado ballot two years ago.

Buchanan said the new plan would cost taxpayers more than it saves because agencies would have to check immigration records. He also said it would leave the government open to expensive legal fights.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only part of it.

Manassas's War on Immigrants

Many of us grew up with grandparents and perhaps an uncle or aunt living in the same house with us. It was our family, it was the way it was. No questions were asked, most of the neighbors lived like that, too. DP

The Washington Post: "Ours is by no means a tradition limited to respect for the bonds uniting the members of the nuclear family. The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition. Over the years millions of our citizens have grown up in just such an environment, and most, surely, have profited from it. "
-- Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio (1977)

WRITING FOR the Supreme Court, Justice Powell sensibly struck down a singularly ludicrous municipal attempt to define family living arrangements so strictly that it would criminalize a grandmother's choice to live with her grandson. Now comes the city of Manassas with an equally outrageous zoning ordinance. Under the guise of upholding standards in its pristine neighborhoods, it would outlaw households consisting of a family's cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. Quite aside from the law's probable unconstitutionality, it is patently bigoted.

Like other suburban localities in this region, Manassas is undergoing a demographic shift as Hispanic immigrants, legal and undocumented, move into what were once relatively homogenous neighborhoods. Some of the immigrants share housing with their relatives to help out with the rent or mortgage -- the sort of arrangement that the late Justice Powell, a proud Virginian, would recognize as part of the striving that constitutes the American dream. Some communities are welcoming, others less so; in Manassas, city officials decided that the best way to deal with the immigrants was to harass them.

In an act of Big Brotherish government intrusion, they changed a zoning law to redefine family units suitable for cohabitation -- and to exclude uncles, aunts and others they deem as undesirables.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

House immigration bill crosses line

Another opinion piece showing why the House plan on Illegal Immigration Control won't work. The only thing it does is make the people who are against immigration feel that they are winning the battle, even though it will do nothing. It will not solve the problem. DP

Legislation's punitive measures have no place in U.S. law; its drawbacks far outweigh benefits

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The punitive immigration and border security bill approved this month by the U.S. House of Representatives is a frightening and largely useless piece of legislation. Its mean spirit — and its failure to provide a constructive solution to the very real problem of illegal immigration — should effectively bar the bill from becoming law.

The House should discard most of the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" and start over.

The most troublesome of the provisions in the House bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) would turn illegal immigrants in the United States into criminals, subject to a prison sentence of a year or more. (Illegal immigration is currently a civil violation, not a crime.)

In and of itself, Sensenbrenner's proposal is a meaningless gesture. The United States is not about to prosecute and imprison 11 million immigrant men, women and children. Such a step is neither possible nor practical, even if it were desirable, which it is not.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bill could prohibit churches from helping immigrants

The bill passed in the House last week might have very far reaching consequences. Some that probably weren't intended, or maybe they were. DP

Denton Record-Chronicle: Pastors in Texas and elsewhere are worried that a bill that just passed in the U.S. House of Representatives might make it illegal for churches to help some of the poor.

Some who help with faith-based charity work are telling Congress they'd be willing to break new laws set forth in the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 to continue their efforts.

Don Bergstrom of Ascension Lutheran in Austin has become the caretaker for the church's "lending closet," a stockpile of medical equipment people have donated to the church that is given to anyone who asks.

"If you need an egg crate for your bed, I've got an egg crate for your bed," Mr. Bergstrom said. "If you need extension pillows, I've got extension pillows."

He'll give the equipment to nearly anyone in need, but under the bill passed by the House, Ascension Lutheran pastor Brian Peterson worries that could land them in trouble.

"It makes us, as people of faith, really think very long and hard about how we are called to welcome a stranger," Rev. Peterson said.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On TV: love, jealousy - and a primer on good credit

I think most of this is terrific. The only thing that bothers me is the Spanglish that is used. Immigrants have to learn English to be successful in this country. Learning all the rules and regulations is great, but you have to be able to communicate. DP

By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor: DURHAM, N.C. – In the searing heat of a Southern city, the drama unfolds like another day at General Hospital: Restaurant owner Manuel, a benevolent patriarch who offers aid to new immigrants, is hiding a dark secret that binds him and his enemy, the club owner Salvador. Meanwhile, Dr. Maria Hayden, whose US-born husband left her for a sultry blonde, is considering the attentions of a handsome mechanic.

Amid a cloud of mariachi music, "Nuestro Barrio", (Spanish for "Our Neighborhood"), America's first locally produced telenovela, or Latin American soap opera, is poised to offer much more than love affairs and plot twists. As the new show debuts across the South in late January, viewers will also see a short sermon on what equity means, how to open a checking account and the ins-and-outs of American law.

Traditional Latin-American produced telenovelas often feature a "Maria," who, like some 50 percent of Latina women, is poor. "Maria" in the end assumes her rightful place in society, usually through an unexpected inheritance or marriage to a "Ricardo Rich."

"Nuestro Barrio" offers a Jeffersonian vision: Success comes from learning the game of economics, working hard, and playing to win. The dialogue, conducted in Spanglish, is a mix of Spanish and English, reflecting the language of many immigrants.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Immigrants taught English at library

This is the way to help immigrants become Americans. Free classes for residents of Kent County RI, to become more proficient in English. People from Portugal, Poland, China, Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and Russia are attending the classes. DP

Kent County Daily Times: Jian Yuan is 23 years old. She was born in China but moved to the United States with her family a year and a half ago. When she arrived here she spoke very little English, but today, after 24 hours of instruction in the free literacy classes at the West Warwick Public Library, she is speaking, reading and understanding English much clearer.

Earlier this month, she and two dozen or so other immigrants in similar situations received their certificates for successfully completing the fall session of the literacy program.

Now if someone says something to her like "that was the icing on the cake" or "you're the cream of the crop," chances are she'll know what they mean. The classroom instructors spend time on these easily overlooked idioms with their students.

Depending on their age, literacy and education level, students also receive instruction on reading and writing in English, resume writing, conversing in English and basic computer skills.

"We basically start by teaching our students the survival skills that they need to be successful in the United States," said Sue Schweikart, the literacy coordinator for the program. "Once they know their way around a grocery store, how to shop, how to write a check and basic reading, writing and speaking skills, then we begin work with them more closely on grammar, literature and vocabulary."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Report on illegal immigrants ignores benefits, critics say

The Governor's report said that there was great cost to the state because of illegal immigration. This group is showing that there are also great benefits. DP

John Ewoldt, Star Tribune
Star Tribune: Nearly 200 immigrants and their supporters met to challenge Gov. Pawlenty's report on the public cost of illegal immigration.

The report doesn't show the economic benefits that immigrants bring to the communities, said Jared Erdmann, the interim co-director of the Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research.

He wants to see the state recognize the economic impact of immigrant workers who contribute to the state's service, construction and agriculture industries.

Jim Wilson of Wilson's Nursery Inc. in Chanhassen employs mostly Hispanic workers. "They're the lifeblood of our company," which he said had revenues of $2 million last year.

Latino buying power in Minnesota was $3.3 billion in 2005, about 2 percent of Minnesota's total, according to information presented at the news conference from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

A Department of Corrections report indicated that about 8,000 illegal immigrants filed state income taxes. Although the state is estimated to have as many as 85,000 undocumented workers, many don't file taxes, but taxes from paychecks remain with the state.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

America should welcome Hispanic immigrants

This opinion piece gives several reasons why we should be more compassionate to the immigrants here. Especially since we all enjoy the fruits of their labor in one way or another. DP

By Mark O'Rourke
We need a fair guest worker program and respect for our neighbors' dignity.
The Greenville News: Illegal immigration of Hispanics into the United States has become a hot topic. There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, with 45,000 to 75,000 in South Carolina. Many work in low-wage and hazardous industries, such as agriculture and construction.

This state of affairs is an unfortunate tragedy. Our society should do better and we can do better in caring for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

First, we citizens of the United States need to acknowledge that the problem is not merely 11 million people breaking U.S. law who should be treated as criminals. Indeed, it is jobs in our economy and the hope of a better life that draw Hispanics from Mexico, Central and South America to the United States. We allow them to work in our hotels and restaurants, in our agricultural fields and on our construction crews, while we tolerate a pervasive "don't ask, don't tell" status quo and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Second, we citizens of the United States have a practical interest in having these 11 million people registered in guest worker programs that allow them to be healthy, safe and secure and to be productive members of our society.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Vietnamese Immigrants Give $1 Million to College

Here is a wonderful example of how immigrants come here, work hard, become Americans and give back to their community. The immigrants (mostly Hispanic) who are here now and are being complained about constantly will eventually get to this point too. DP

Donation by developer, restaurateur bolsters Little Saigon's growing sense of philanthropy.
By Mai Tran, Times Staff Writer : A pair of immigrant businessmen announced Monday that they would give $1 million to a community college campus near Orange County's Little Saigon, a gift experts say underscores the growing level of philanthropy in the Vietnamese community.

The campus, near Westminster City Hall and a statue that honors American and South Vietnamese soldiers, will be named for benefactors restaurateur Chieu Le and developer Frank Jao.

Some observers see the donation to Coastline Community College as a sign of a maturing in Orange County's Vietnamese community, which was formed by refuges in the 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnamese have a record of helping in emergencies, such as Hurricane Katrina and last year's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. But individual acts of philanthropy on such a large scale are still considered relatively rare, said Thu-huong Nguyen-vo, an assistant professor at UCLA's Department of Asian American Studies.

"We haven't had a long time to accumulate enough wealth in the United States in order to do a lot of philanthropic work," said Nguyen-vo. "We're not a rich community, but cumulatively, it has been huge."

The Le-Jao Center will open next month. The donation will help fund a variety of programs, from biotechnology to English-as-a-second-language courses. The $11-million facility, financed and operated by Coastline, will include 21 classrooms, three computer labs and a science lab.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Word is out: Immigrants on road to success polish English skills in intensive U. class

It is sad that so many people think someone with an accent is uneducated. They should realize that it means this person know at least two languages and English is not the first one. People in this country do not realize how difficult it is to learn another language. DP

Jennifer W. Sanchez
The Salt LakeTribune : Marie F. Gomez knows there are people who think she is stupid.

   It's in their snide looks and comments after they hear her speak English with an accent. Gomez, a lawyer who moved here from Venezuela in 2001, says she doesn't understand why some people automatically assume she's uneducated if she stumbles on a few words.

    "Some people think you are not smart enough if you don't speak English properly," she says. "You know the difference between those people who are having a bad day and those who want to hurt your feelings."

    Determined to improve her English pronunciation, Gomez applied and was accepted into the Zions Bank-English Language Institute Scholarship Program at the University of Utah.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Where Are The Immigrants in Immigration Debate?

It must be frightening and confusing to these people who are being debated about, not knowing how they will be affected. Many work long hours and don't get to see the TV news, many can't read well enough to read the newspaper. A very interesting article. DP

By EDUARDO STANLEY Pacific News Service

Berkeley Daily Planet : The House last week passed a highly punitive immigration bill, heightening the controversy over the issue of immigration reform. But even as the debate over immigration policy promises to be a divisive issue in the coming midterm elections, the voices of immigrants themselves are missing from the discussion.

“We’re not participating,” says Claudia (not her real name), a Fresno resident and mother of one. “We don’t know whom to talk to about it.”

“We are worried about what’s going to happen,” says Rosa (not her real name) of Madera, an agricultural worker and mother of four. To her, proposals in other bills for a new guest worker plan that leave out the nearly 11 million immigrants who are already here don’t make sense.

“We know they want to bring workers, so what will happen to us?” she asks.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Class helps immigrants communicate with officers

Immigrants from all countries must learn English and learn the laws here. Communication is the most necessary thing for anyone to succeed. Helping immigrants communicate with the police is a very important first step. DP

North County Times, : VISTA, CA -- Less than six months after three Latino men were killed in deputy-involved shootings this summer, Vista Adult School is offering a program that encourages communication between law enforcement officers and English learners.

The "Talking With Police" program was not created as a response to the shootings ---- the idea for the course came up more than a year ago --- but the violence in late July and early August made it particularly timely, organizers said.

More than 500 English as a Second Language students participated in the first installment of the program, which began in October and ends this month.

San Diego County Sheriff's Department personnel are a key part of the course, which uses a workbook to take students through various situations dealing with law enforcement, including traffic stops, accidents, emergencies and identification of suspects.

Officials said the curriculum was intended to improve communication between the community and sheriff's deputies ---- something that is needed now more than ever.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Citizenship exam to be made more 'meaningful'

I think it is a very good idea to have these immigrants study relevant things to become Americans. They will appreciate their new country much more if they understand it and they will develop a loyalty to it. DP

El Paso Times, : The naturalization test given to immigrants aspiring to become U.S. citizens will be redesigned within two years to make the questions "more meaningful," Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the office of citizenship for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Thursday in El Paso.

The new test will not be more difficult, Aguilar said, but it will be more substantive than the current test, which hasn't been changed since it was drafted in 1986.

The current questions are "very trivia-based," Aguilar said. "You have seven questions about the flag in there. What color are the stripes? What color are the stars? You have questions about what form to use to apply for citizenship. That doesn't teach you anything. When immigrants are studying for it, they get very little civic context out of it."

The test is a pool of 96 questions about U.S. history and civics, from which immigration agents pick 10 questions at random. It is administered along with a short written exam, a reading test and an interview.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Immigration puts pressure on Southern schools

The No Child Left Behind rules are making it very hard for schools with high immigrant populations to pass the tests when these children don't know English well enough. Maybe these children should be given more time before they test. Imagine if we had to take tests in a foreign language one year from now. DP

By GIL KLEIN and DANIEL GILBERT  / Media General News Service : Immigrants are showing up in places that had not experienced past immigration waves. They are arriving in cities, suburbs and rural areas alike. During the 1990s, Hispanics of school age in six states Pew Hispanic Center studied - Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee - grew from 55,199 to 232,756, a 322 percent increase.

But that tells only part of the story. Latino school enrollment in those states is projected to grow by 210 percent between 2001 and 2007 compared to 2 percent for non-Hispanic students. The study predicted that by 2007, Hispanic students will constitute 10 percent of the school-age population, compared to 4 percent in 2000.

The influx is putting pressure on schools to find teachers who can reach these students. At the same time, the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that these English-language learners must make the same progress as native English speakers.

But the big influx is not limited to the six Southern states Pew studied.

Speaking another language is not required to become a certified ESOL teacher. While most immigrants are Hispanic, speaking Spanish does not help with the polyglot of languages arriving in Southern schools.

"We have a Bengali speaker, a Chinese speaker, a Farsi speaker," said Kari Wilson an ESOL teacher at Occoquan, VA. "You need to teach children from any background."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The quiet assimilation of the undocumented

I keep saying, when immigrants have rights and succeed here, we all benefit. This community is thriving because the immigrants are assimilating into life there. They will become wonderful Americans someday. DP

By Lydia Chávez, a professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and is researching a project on immigrants live.

Los Angeles Times, : All it takes are salsa, chips and a healthy dose of pragmatism.

That's the city manager's recipe for democracy in Arvin, one of 12 California towns where more than half of the adult residents aren't American citizens. When Arvin needed to update its noise ordinances, it decided participation, not citizenship, should rule the day.

The Central Valley agricultural town, population about 14,000, held a community meeting — with snacks. The city officials asked a DJ to play music and measured the loudness with a decibel meter. When it came time to decide what noise level ought to be allowed, no one was asked, "Are you a citizen?"

"We asked them to raise their hands and their vote was counted," said Arvin's city manager, Enrique Medina Ochoa. The results went to the City Council for consideration.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Would Illegal Immigrants Register for Guest Worker Visas?

They might if they believed that they wouldn’t regret it later.

When all the politicians talk about immigration reform, are they really planning or even wanting to do something new? It helps the economy and many businesses to have workers who earn very low wages. It would in turn, hurt the economy to lose all these workers.

The House plan to build a wall on the border probably won’t pass in the Senate. But they might approve President Bush's plan to have everyone register for guest worker visas. This plan wants them to work here for two or three years and then leave, which sounds fine until we realize people might not want to leave. This plan would make their work lives safer and better for those two or three years, but once they are making better money than they were before and have a better life than they had before, what will they do? Give it all up to go back to the problems and poverty they left? I doubt it.

If everyone has to register, these people must be given a good reason to do it and not fear that they will regret it. They have to be shown that there are many advantages if they were working here legally:
~ The money they pay to people who smuggle them in would be saved.
~ They wouldn't be walking across a desert and be injured or die.
~ They wouldn't be breaking the law every day just by being here.
~ They wouldn't live in fear every day that they will be caught.
~ They wouldn’t be exploited by unscrupulous employers and landlords who know they won’t complain about their treatment.
~ If these people were registered workers, many of them would be able to go home to visit families they left a long time ago and haven't seen since. Once they got here, they became trapped on this side of the border, never able to visit their families because they feared being caught at the border when they came back in.

If a plan is enacted to have illegal immigrants register, perhaps a small part of their wages could be deducted and put into an escrow account to be given back to them when they leave permanently. This money might be enough for them to start a small business at home and would help their family and also their hometown. Some of them might take this money and go home, not all of these workers came here with the plan to stay.

If they didn't show up, deciding instead to stay illegally and take their chances here, their money would be kept and they will be deported if caught. Because these people were all working with a registered ID number, they could be found more easily than when they were using fake numbers.

If these people state that they want to apply for legal U.S. status at that time, they would have to prove that they had stayed out of trouble, learned English, established themselves in their community, kept their jobs, paid taxes and learned some of the things needed to become naturalized Americans. Then some of that money could be returned to them, possibly with strings attached as to how they could use it. They can then apply for legal status, with no guarantee they will be accepted, of course. But the chances they would be accepted would be good if they had worked here that long with no problems.

This might solve the problem of getting them to register if this is the plan that the government enacts. It’s too bad we can’t spend a fraction of the money we have spent destroying and then rebuilding Iraq and help the Mexican economy. If Mexico and other Latin American countries had stronger economies, the people would probably stay home. We would all benefit and have a stronger ally on our southern border.

Stop the scapegoating of illegal immigrants

We need a plan that will help everyone involved, not just specific interest groups. If we continue to allow these immigrants in without making it safe for them to be here, we are adding to the problem every minute. DP


Austin American Statesman, : But no matter how much the border is "hardened," people will continue to cross it. They simply cannot survive in Mexico. Mexicans receive $1 billion a year from people working in the United States. This is Mexico's largest source of income — even greater than from its oil and petroleum industry. It's also easier on Mexico to have some 10 million of its people working in the United States than face possible upheaval there if they were unable to migrate.

On our side of the equation, the American economy depends on inexpensive labor — construction, agriculture and the service industries in particular.

The immigration problem will not be resolved until the severe economic disparity between the United States and Mexico is lessened. All that "hardening" the border does is increase the peril for undocumented people coming into this country, forcing them to walk through the desert's extreme heat by day and freezing temperatures at night, often without water. This year alone, some 500 people will perish during the trek.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quit babbling; U.S. language concerns work their way out

Richmond Times-Dispatch, Though the bilingual debate can be a complicated issue - with calls for constitutional amendments to make English the official language of America and cries for schools to teach Spanish as equal to English - I think we can just let it be. But not because the debate is unimportant. Success for immigrants has always been based on assimilation, and assimilation can't occur without speaking English.

It's just that I believe the drive to assimilate is too strong to stop no matter your politics, your class or your cultural loyalty. Your children or grandchildren, no matter what country you are from, will foil any plans you might have to keep them Mexican or Guatemalan or Finnish or whatever. You will speak to them in your language and eventually, in a generation or two, you will hear back perfectly unaccented English as American as apple pie.

I have absolutely no idea how I learned how to speak English. My parents spoke only Portuguese to me in my earliest years. I remember no special treatment in elementary school, and I am no quick study. I picked up English without a trace of accent because learning languages is very easy for the very young to do.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Immigrants adjust to first Christmas in U.S.

A good example of how a combination of multi-culturalism and assimilation works for these kids. DP

By Nardy Baeza Bickel
The Grand Rapids Press: WYOMING -- Until this year, 9-year-old Sedekie Jabateh didn't know about Santa Claus, had never seen snow and didn't own a pair of gloves.

On Friday, the boy was immersed in the season, dancing to the beat as he followed along to "Jingle Bells." The sing-along party at Taft Elementary School gave a first taste of Christmas to Sedekie, who grew up in the Ivory Coast and spent two years in a refugee camp before moving to Wyoming this summer.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Farm workers' poor driving skills threaten road safety

Fresno State raised state and federal funds and partnered with the CHP to develop posters, board games and a video to provide basic training on American road rules. We all want to have the people next to us on the highways be trained to drive here, don't we? I know I do. This program sounds like it will help all of us. DP

By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
The Sacramento Bee:
Farm workers know when an orange is ripe for picking or how to prune a peach tree, but many have poor driving skills, which puts everyone's lives at risk, road safety experts said Wednesday.

"A lot of them just don't know how to drive," said Abel Serrano, one of about 20 farm labor contractors and farm representatives who came to Visalia to hear about the Farm Worker Motor Vehicle Safety program developed by the California State University, Fresno.

Many farm workers are recent immigrants who can't read road signs in English and didn't start driving until arriving in California's farm belt. Often, they're undocumented and can't apply for driver's licenses or take a driver's education class, said Bert Mason, a professor of agricultural economics at Fresno State who helped develop the program.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

New residents of all ages find ways to polish their English skills

Renton Reporter: Colleges around the region also offer classes for English Language Learners.
At Renton Technical College, demand for the classes has been strong, said John Chadwick, the school's dean of basic studies.
Most of RTC's ESL students are 25 to 44 years old, which reflects statewide figures for postsecondary education. The majority of those - 37 percent - are white, and 24 percent are Hispanic.
Chadwick said the largest increase has been in the number of Hispanic, Russian and Ukrainian ESL students attending the school.
"We've tried to really respond to the need," he said. "I started in April of last year. When it came to fall quarter, I had a waiting list of 440 ESL students."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Making a Difference: The California Charter School That Beat the Odds

Another terrific example of people helping people! We will all benefit when these students graduate with a degree and have successful professional lives; starting businesses, paying taxes, buying houses, etc. DP

Fox Hispanic students from poor and blue-collar families were lost in the system. Half dropped out; only 10 percent went on to a four-year college.

Successful students from low-income, Mexican immigrant families were like needles in a haystack, Andaluz and Lippman concluded. They didn’t want to spend their careers sharpening a few needles. “We wanted to educate the haystack,” says Andaluz.

So they started a charter high school, Downtown College Prep, to prepare left-behind students to succeed at four-year colleges.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Immigrants at Mid-Decade

Center for Immigration Studies: The report, "Immigrants at Mid-Decade: A Snapshot of America's Foreign-Born Population in 2005," is available and very interesting. You can save it as a pdf file too.

An analysis of Census Bureau data shows that the nation's foreign-born or immigrant population (legal and illegal) reached a new record of more than 35 million in March of 2005. The data also indicate that the first half of this decade has been the highest five-year period of immigration in American history. This Backgrounder provides a detailed picture of both numbers and the socio-economic status of immigrants. DP

Be sure to read report! Parts of it are very surprising.

For many immigrants, language is the highest hurdle

Atlantic City casinos are teaching their workers to speak English. DP The immigrants' grammar, on display in sentences printed on the classroom marker board, was as fractured as their lives.

"I have to buy new bargain for my windows," one read.

"My supervisor is everything fussy," said another.

That sentence drew nods and smiles from the dozen casino workers gathered in the Claridge casino training room to learn English. But another offering truly captured their feelings about the government-casino partnership that's helping to train Atlantic City's new immigrant work force.

"I'm make a good deal to came here for lerning Inglish."

"What drives them into classes is not only seeking promotion or a better job," Hendrixson said. "A lot get in because their kids are in school and they cannot talk to the teacher. They have difficulty opening bank accounts or shopping in nonethnic stores.

"If you're conversant in English, you can participate in society," he said.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

We need immigrants more than we admit

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
The San Diego Union Tribune, The Enquirer: The minute I saw the harrowing video of the scaffold caught up in high winds and crashing into a Denver office building 12 stories above the ground - with two terrified window washers hanging on for dear life - I just knew that when the time came to get the men's statements, we'd need a translator who spoke Spanish.

Maybe it's because Denver is one of those U.S. cities with a substantial immigrant population, both legal and illegal. Or because this looked like the type of job that immigrant-bashers insist that Americans are eager to do - dirty, distasteful and dangerous.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

UCLA Students Give Back to the Community by Teaching English to Immigrant Day Laborers

Some good news, people helping people! DP

UCLA News: About 20 UCLA students are part of Proyecto de Jornaleros, the Day Laborer Project. The program is a community service project of the UCLA Community Programs Office.

Every Saturday morning the volunteers go to gathering sites for day laborers — one in downtown Los Angeles and one in West Los Angeles. The volunteers also work on Friday mornings at the downtown Los Angeles center.

"One of my favorite parts of doing this is we have a chance to create a political and social awareness here in Los Angeles and in the nation," said Jesus Gonzales, one of the project coordinators. "We teach these English classes so they know how powerful words are, so they aren't stopped by a language barrier. They are able to stand up for themselves."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

215 Immigrants Take Advantage of Tuition Program

After we spend so much money to educate these children in our grade schools and high schools, why would we want them to miss out on getting a college education? With a college degree, they can get a good job, will probably stay in the state and pay taxes, buy houses and cars and furniture and all the other things they need. They will more than pay back the money we spent on them. DP, The Oklahoman: The resident tuition law passed in 2003 allows certain undocumented immigrants to attend Oklahoma colleges and universities. To be eligible, students must have lived in Oklahoma for at least two years before graduating from an Oklahoma high school or passing a high school equivalency exam.

Those eligible can:
Enroll in public colleges and universities.
Pay resident tuition rates.
Apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid.

The proposed legislation is one sign of a changing political climate toward illegal immigrants, Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, said after the meeting. She said she couldn't understand targeting children who were brought here involuntarily by parents.

"Do we want to help them get a better future to help our economy grow, or do we want to punish them? I think it's as simple as that," Leftwich said, repeating an argument used to pass the bill two years ago.

Altogether, the undocumented students constituted 1/10 of 1 percent of the state's 195,000 undergraduates, the report said.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Arizona Bishops say Immigration Policies Should be Compassionate

Let's hope there is a way we can solve the immigration question and also help these families. This country is supposed to be moral and compassionate, if only we can remember that when dealing with immigrants. DP

KVOA News: Arizona's Catholic bishops said politicians ought to make America's immigration policies more compassionate toward the thousands of illegal immigrants who sneak into the United States each year to provide a better living for their families.

The church leaders wrote that America has a right to control its borders and that they weren't condoning illegal immigration. Still, they said it's impossible to deport the more than 10 million illegal immigrants living in the United States and that society ought to embrace them.

"We want solutions to the immigration question that resolves the immigration question, that does not just diminish people," Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas said in an interview.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Special Driver Licenses for Immigrants

It seems that this would make the roads much safer. I would rather have someone with this license driving next to me on the highway, than someone with none because he is illegal and can't get a license or insurance.

The Courier Journal: INDIANAPOLIS -- Illegal immigrants in Indiana would receive a special driver's license if they pass an exam and buy auto insurance under legislation a House member plans to introduce.

State Rep. John Aguilera, D-East Chicago, said the licenses would not help people gain U.S. citizenship but would simply grant driving rights to illegal immigrants. "It should be framed as a public-safety issue. That's what we're trying to impact here."

Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Indianapolis, told a group of Indianapolis-area business owners this week that illegal immigrants are living and working in Indiana. "And, currently, we have a large number on the road, driving cars -- without licenses, without insurance, without any qualifications -- and they're running into us and into each other," Murphy said.

A state permit would ensure that immigrant drivers have insurance and know the rules of the road, he said. He added that it also could make them less likely to leave accident scenes.

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Birthright Citizenship for Immigrants

Conservatives are trying to end birthright citizenship for immigrants. Do we really want to change the constitution for this?

The Mercury News: Because of widespread opposition in the House and even more in the Senate, the measure is unlikely to become law, and would face a constitutional challenge in court if it did. But it promises to make the debate over illegal immigration even more divisive and could reverberate in next year's midterm elections.

"To change the way we establish citizenship is such an extreme measure, and it makes you really question what is motivating people to come up with those ideas," said Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, whose grandparents emigrated from Mexico. "It just goes counter to what we are as a people, and I think it does great harm."

According to the Constitution's 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to give former slaves U.S. citizenship, "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Temporary Workers Won't Assimilate

President Bush's plan to create a class of temporary workers will not help the problem of immigrants not assimilating. It would exacerbate the problem. If they work here for a few years and then have to go home, there is no reason to expect them to learn English or try to fit in and become more American.

Monday, December 05, 2005

How can we help immigrants assimilate?

We all understand why immigrants want to come here. We know what this country can offer them.

We understand why our ancestors came here. They were living in terrible conditions: poverty, religious persecution, war, famine. Whatever their reasons were, we understand. We might do the same thing if it happened to us.

We also know that to be successful, immigrants have to learn to live in this culture, the way our ancestors did. They learned the language, figured out the laws and what they had to do to make a living and did better than they would have if they had stayed home.

There are so many immigrants now who are living in small communities of their own, they don't learn English and don't find any need to learn it. A major problem with this arrangement is that they don't solve the problems they were trying to escape. They bring them with them and often live the same way they did in their home country. The only difference is that they are able to find work and make more money than they did before and their children get a good education.

How can we help them assimilate into our country? How can we convince them it is important? If they learn English, not only will they learn the laws and all their rights, but they will also have many more jobs open to them. The papers are full of ads for bilingual workers.

When these people become permanent residents they should be persuaded to work quickly to become citizens. Since English is the main language here, they must learn it. They must learn about this country and form a loyalty to it. They must take part in the most important part of their citizenship - voting.

If people just live here and work here and never become citizens, they will never be more than guests, with no feeling for what this country has given them. They won't have any of the benefits that citizenship can give them.

Their children who were not born here won't have a country to belong to either. The parents have loyalty to their old home, the children have loyalty to this one but can't take part in many things because they aren't citizens. So the children won't belong to either one.

How can we convince the immigrants here now that this is important and necessary?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Assimilation or Multi-culturalism: That is the Question

Maybe we need a combination of the two.

What does it mean to be American? Does it mean everyone talks the same and looks the same and believes the same things? Does it mean forgetting everything that our parents and grandparents had to go through to get to this country? Does it mean forgetting all the customs and foods and stories they were raised with?

Wouldn't that be awfully hard to do? And wouldn't this be a boring place to live?

This country was a huge land with very few inhabitants and then people from all parts of the world left their own homes and troubles and came here with one goal: to make a better life for their families than they could have in their homeland. They were the entrepreneurs, the hard working, stubborn, brave people who came with nothing and made something of themselves. In the process they built a great country for us.

George Washington said in 1783 that our borders were open for the wealthy and educated and oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, who were free to participate in all our rights and privileges – if these newcomers followed American standards of decency and proper conduct. He wanted them to assimilate to their new country's values. And most of them did. Most of these European immigrants considered themselves Americans and never saw their homelands or families again. This was mainly because travel to Europe was difficult, not because the new country insisted on it, although it made assimilation easier to accomplish.

The goal used to be for all immigrants of different backgrounds to "melt" into a new race of people. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, this ideal was challenged when we were encouraged to celebrate diversity and move beyond this melting pot. Assimilation was changed to multi-culturalism.

Multi-culturalism is promoted by many, but it doesn't give the people a common goal, belief or even language anymore. Many of the immigrants here now have no knowledge of the history of this country and no interest in learning it. They have no loyalty to any common idea or belief, and often don't consider themselves Americans. A large number never learn English and never learn their rights or responsibilities and never become a part of this country. What can we do to help them become Americans?

The task of assimilating into a new culture doesn't rest with the people already there, it is the responsibility of the immigrants to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to them in their new home. They must try to adapt to life in this country. It doesn't mean they should forget their own customs, it doesn't mean they should change entirely, but it does mean they should do their best to learn the language and the rules.

When Americans look back at their history of immigration, they assume that assimilation is a relatively easy process, since their parents and grandparents did it. But it is very hard for immigrants to give up old languages, customs and practices so they can be absorbed into their new society. Most people possess a strong, passionate attachment to their own culture and way of life and in most cases, they are emigrating because of poverty in their own country. If their country offered them a good life for their families, most of them would stay home.

We need the immigrants who are here and will need more all the time. We should find a way to combine the assimilation we used to strive for and the multi-culturalism that so many want now. We have to convince these new people to become Americans without giving up all of the customs from their former homes.

We need more Americans, not just citizens (or non-citizens) living here who never fit in.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How Can We Convince Immigrants to Learn English?

Even though they are able to live here without it.

Everyone in the world knows that English is the language spoken in the U.S. and most immigrants are prepared to learn it. But when they arrive, many of them (especially Spanish speaking) find signs and other information in their own language and quickly realize that they don't have to learn more than a few words of English.

It is completely understandable why they are reluctant to learn it. Learning a new language is hard, if people don't have to do it, they probably won't. But these people also won't ever be fully integrated into our society. In the past, the first thing new immigrants did was learn English. They had to know English to work and drive and shop. When everyone in the country speaks the same language, even with an accent, the country is much more united than ours is now.

Now they can live in their own little communities, watch TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, shop, work and even drive without speaking ANY English. They can get government forms in their own language and almost all offices and departments have interpreters available for them.

Many new residents know almost nothing about this country they live in. Without understanding the language, they don’t have much opportunity to learn about the culture. They don’t learn the laws or their rights or responsibilities and very often end up in trouble because of it. They live here the same way they did in their home country and when they are within their little enclaves they are sometimes perpetuating the same problems that they were trying to get away from.

English is what unites us in this country. Diverse people and cultures with one language made this nation. People who know our language are more successful, earn more income, move into better neighborhoods with better schools and make better lives for their families. Their children, in turn, are more successful and the whole country benefits.

We should stop talking so much about multiculturalism and talk again about this country being a “melting pot” where people from all countries move here, learn the language and become Americans. The melting pot doesn’t have to mean Anglo conformity, it can mean a mixture of all the different cultures. The melting pot has always been changing and that mixture would now have more of a Latino texture than before. It was mostly British and Northern European at one time, then Irish was added, then Italian, then Jewish, then Asian, but always a mixture that was American. What else could anyone call that mixture? It was American.

How can we convince the new immigrants to learn English? Maybe more classes and tutors would help. Maybe they would be convinced if they were shown how much better they would do if they knew English. Maybe it would help if they knew there are many more jobs available everyday for bilingual workers.

Will the fact that so many immigrants didn’t understand the warnings to evacuate when Hurrican Katrina was nearing the coast help them to understand that they should know at least some English? They should not expect that the warnings would be in their language.

How can we convince immigrants to learn English? Regardless of the things we do, it won't do much good if they are not convinced it is important. They have to be shown how much safer and successful they will be if they know the language that most of the country speaks. And if they are successful, we will benefit too.

What Would We Do if All the Illegal Immigrants Left?

Could we afford to live here if they all went home?

There are several proposals for immigration reform being discussed now. They say they will solve the problem of so many illegal immigrants coming to and staying in this country. Some are offering amnesty, others guest worker cards, others temporary cards.

Some people are talking about rounding them up and sending them all back to where ever they came from.

How would we do that? First, how would we find all of them? If we were able to find them, who would do the processing and paperwork to organize the deportation? Would we hire planes and buses and buy them tickets to go home? It sounds like it would be impossible and also impossibly expensive to do this for the millions who are here, some for many years.

If the roads were filled with buses and the skies with planes taking all these people out of this country, what would happen then? Who would do the work they were doing here? There would be a huge shortage of workers for farming, construction, landscaping, restaurants and tourism. Last season, growers could not get enough workers to harvest their crops and this year is worse. Prices of everything would rise dramatically and some produce would not be available at all, because it would be rotting in the fields.

These people take jobs that most other residents won’t take. The pay is low, the hours are long, the work is very hard and often dangerous, the benefits are non-existent. They often are housed in bunkhouses or sharing trailers, away from their families, living in conditions few of us would tolerate. Assuming they make about $6.00 an hour, what would the wage have to be raised to for any of us to accept the work and conditions? $12? $20? If growers had to pay two or three or four times the present wage just to harvest, how much would lettuce and apples and tomatoes cost in the stores?

If landscaping companies, contractors and restaurants had to pay top wages to get the work done, how much would we have to pay to buy or repair a house or get the lawn cut or buy a meal? If motel and hotel maids and janitors were paid more, would we be able to afford a room?

If these workers were allowed to work legally, with a guest worker card or temporary worker visa, or whatever the different proposals call them, they would have to be paid at least the minimum wage and would be paying taxes. Paying the minimum wage or the prevailing wage would probably raise prices a little, but not as much as raising wages so the rest of us would do the work. An added bonus might be discovering that some of these workers are highly educated and skilled and are taking these manual labor jobs because they can’t legally get a better job.

If companies can’t find enough workers who are here legally, they should be able to offer these jobs to others willing and able to do them. But these people should have some type of document; they have to be paying taxes, have to be able to work and live safely, have to be able to be located when the immigration department wants to know where they are.

Undocumented workers are exploited by unscrupulous employers. They are exploited precisely because they are undocumented. These employers know they can do almost anything to them and won’t be reported. If these employers were made to follow the laws, it would also help solve the problem.

If people needed these temporary visas to work here, the ones that are crossing the border illegally would probably stop coming. It would be impossible to send all the illegal people back home now, we have to find a better way to deal with this problem.

We beg for immigration reform and complain about illegal immigrants, but are we willing to pay more for almost everything we need and use in our lives if they are deported?

Should We Worry About Immigrant Assimilation and Education?

Yes, they are important to our future!

Many of tomorrow's workers and business owners are the children of today's immigrants. More than 40% of the growth of our labor force in the late 1990s was due to immigrants, and since immigration WILL continue, they are important to our future growth.

A concern is certainly that many of today's Hispanic/Latino immigrants are uneducated and unskilled: this could mean that their children will not fit into our knowledge-based and high-tech economy. Often when parents are uneducated, they have lower expectations and don't encourage their children to stay in high school and go on to college. These parents very often need their children to work in the shops they own or contribute to the household income with outside jobs. Many of their children must drop out of high school to help the family survive financially.

Twenty five percent of the children under the age of six in the U.S. are children of immigrants, the majority in poor families. If these children went to preschool, it would dramatically change their lives, especially if there were also some services available for their parents. If these parents could go to nearby ESL classes and learn some tips on early child rearing, and be shown how important it is for their children to get an education, it would help tremendously in the children's later public school years.

Children who get preschool education are much more likely to do well in school and less likely to drop out or get into trouble. This is true for immigrant children and any other children who are living in poverty.

It would be wonderful if all parents could get some of this training, but poor parents need it most, especially if they don’t speak English at home or if they don’t have much education themselves.

Blue-collar jobs are on the decline in many parts of the U.S. Factories and textile mills are closing and moving to other countries, shocking many people who were born here and have worked in these factories for decades. Money is often spent to re-educate these workers, yet many of them are unable to learn the computers well enough for these high tech jobs because of their age or their own education shortcomings.

Immigrants’ children who have dropped out of school and have no training in these high-tech positions will have the same problem. Immigrants with limited skills will always work at whatever job they can find; this probably means they will always work at low paying jobs and never get out of poverty. If they are forced to raise their own children in poverty, the cycle continues.

Once they are fluent in English and learn U.S. laws, they have a much greater chance of getting better jobs, although the wage gap between them and people born here may still be quite wide.

Undocumented Hispanic teens who are in our public schools may have lower educational aspirations and not try to finish high school, even when their parents do not need their income. They often feel discouraged because they don't think they can get a college education, or if they do get one, that they won't be eligible to work here.

Some states are allowing undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their high schools to attend public state colleges at in-state rates. If these teens have lived in that state for years, have received a good education in those schools and have graduated, why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue their education there without paying the higher non-resident rates?

If they gradute from college, they should be able to apply for citizenship and use their degree to get a high paying job in this country. These workers will contribute to their community, start businesses, buy houses and be wonderful Americans. The money that was spent by the state to educate them to grade 12 will be repaid many times over.

We need skilled and highly trained workers, why would we want these kids to stop their schooling and be forced to work in low paying jobs the rest of their lives? That does not help any of us.

When We Help Immigrants, We Help Ourselves

And some of the benefits are immediate!

Almost all of us who are not immigrants, are descended from immigrants. The United States was built by immigrants and it will always be a country of immigrants. When we think of Chinese, Italians, Germans, English, French, etc. we picture distinct people, cultures, food and languages.

When we think of Americans, we picture a combination of all the other countries. And it is always changing. When people used to picture Americans they saw white people from England, Germany and Scandinavia and the black people descended from slaves. Then Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants came; at that time none of these people were thought of as white. Asian immigrants came next and now the picture we have of Americans is becoming more Spanish speaking and from Latin America.

Throughout our country’s history, there have always been residents who thought the country was full or didn’t need people from certain countries. They seemed to believe, “I’m OK, you’re not”. But the bravest, strongest, most determined, entrepreneurial people from poor countries took a huge chance and moved here to build a better life for themselves. In the process they built a better country for all of us.

If you moved to a new country, what would you do if you knew only a few words of the language and even less of the laws and customs? You would probably first ask your friends, who often wouldn’t know the right answers. Then you might make several attempts to do something and then perhaps give up entirely. Then you would find out the hard way (tickets, fines, evictions, school suspensions) that you did something wrong. New immigrants are trying to adapt to life here and struggle every day to fit in.

When immigrants succeed, we all benefit. Some of the benefits are immediate: helping someone in the checkout line at the grocery store to understand the instructions or make change, helps the line move faster. If we speak slowly and help them learn some English, everything in our daily lives works better. Learning a new language is very difficult, but they won’t be able to assimilate if they don’t learn English. Some people say that these newcomers are stupid or not willing to learn the rules, while they probably are just not able to understand the language or the rules.

If we are friendly and welcoming to new neighbors, they will learn how to fit in and there will be less friction. If there is a neighborhood meeting, take them along. Many of them come from entirely different cultures and have to be shown how to fit into ours.

Tell them about open house and parent-teacher meetings at the local school. Their country’s schools might not have wanted the parents to be involved and they don’t understand how important it is here. Your children’s schools will be better schools if more of the parents are involved and help out. Your children will learn about other countries and cultures from these parents and students, too.

If there is a fire or weather emergency, check on them. Many of them don’t know where to go or who to ask about phone and electric service they have lost. They don’t know there are shelters and help available. Keeping your neighbors safe will make your neighborhood better and maybe they will be helping you next time. A close community of good neighbors has less crime and drugs and other dangerous activities.

In other words, do the same things for these newcomers that you would want them to do for you if you were new residents in their country. This is also called The Golden Rule.

This is our country, we have a right and a responsibility to help new residents learn how to live here. They won’t learn by seeing resentment and hatred on our faces. They will learn by example and friendliness. We will all be happier and we will all benefit when these immigrants become Americans, just like our immigrant ancestors did.