Saturday, December 16, 2006

Immigrants pledge allegiance

New citizens being sworn in include four who have served in Iraq. DP

By Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff LOWELL -- Among the 934 immigrants who raised their right hands and promised to protect the United States against all enemies Monday stood four men for whom that pledge may have seemed redundant.

Ariel Montas, born in the Dominican Republic, spent a year defending the United States in Iraq.

Rayon Everett, born in Jamaica and dressed in desert fatigues, expects to be deployed there in July.

Jose Rodrigues, born in Angola, and Jean Bernard, born in Haiti, each did two tours in Iraq.

"I joined up because it’s my way to give back," said Montas, 25, who was a National Guardsman for seven years. "My parents, my whole family, came here in the hopes of a better life, and we found it."

Immigrants from 83 countries surrounded the four men, all of them packed into the Lowell Memorial to take their oath of allegiance to the United States. Some wore jeans and hoodies, others shiny dresses and hats. As Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of the US District Court named each of the countries represented, immigrants from those nations stood.

Soon all 934 were standing. When Wolf declared them American citizens, they cheered and shook a sea of little American flags.

Bilingual toys taking off

These toys are teaching children another language. DP

BY KEIKO MORRIS, Newsday Staff Writer Ian Hede, at 20 months, plays in two languages.

Sometimes he and his mother, Marcela Hede, solve a simple puzzle of shapes - the words for those shapes written in English and Spanish for his mother to read aloud. And sometimes, he finds his amusement in his LeapFrog letter reader, which, with the simple push of a letter, offers Ian the sound of the letter in Spanish and a catchy little tune.

"We made the decision as a couple to raise him bilingual because we thought it would be a great asset," said Marcela Hede, 36, an East Northport resident who is originally from Colombia. Her husband, Neil Hede, is American. "We have this mentality that we are citizens of the world," she said. "We like the fact that we can communicate in different languages and with different people and meet people of different cultures."

As it turns out, the Hedes are not the only ones looking for toys that will help develop dual language skills. Industry experts say that the demand for such playthings has been growing in the past five years and toy companies, in an attempt to cater to a lucrative market, have boosted the number of such toys. Toys "R" Us identified bilingual toys as the second of its top five hottest toy trends for this holiday season.
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Taking a step toward understanding

First responders in Rochester are learning other languages, at least the most important phrases, to help their immigrant residents. 57 languages are spoken in their schools. DP

By David Peterson and Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune staff writers Matthew Mueller, a Rochester fire captain, volunteered to learn a language other than Spanish, but the city contracted with a company that wasn't fully geared to teach Arabic, and it doesn't offer Somali.

So Mueller, like other firefighters and police officers, wound up with Spanish -- even though school data suggest three-quarters of Rochester's immigrant population speak other languages.

That combination of goodwill and difficult fits and starts is typical of the adjustments that smaller cities across the Midwest are having to make with a tide of immigrants flooding into the nation's heartland, according to two new national studies.

A report by the Century Foundation examined Midwestern states such as Minnesota and Iowa under the label of "immigration's new frontiers."
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Monday, December 11, 2006

First-generation immigrants bypass city for suburbs

An interesting change has happened lately, immigrants are moving directly to the suburbs and not first into cities. They are looking for good schools and jobs. DP

By Michael Hill, ASSOCIATED PRESS GLENVILLE, N.Y. Thiyagarajan Subramanian came to the United States and ended up in a contemporary colonial with a two-car garage. He skipped the sort of city living linked to immigration for more than a century.

Mr. Subramanian is typical of many immigrants across the country. They are more likely to bypass the cozy cocoon of urban enclaves to settle amid the plush lawns and strip malls of suburbia. Demographers tracking immigration trends say it's a signpost in a country simultaneously more diverse and more suburban.

It's happening coast to coast: from Iranians spread through California's sprawling Orange County to Virginia, where Koreans are settled among the pricey suburbs of Fairfax County. The trend is especially pronounced among Indians, a group thick with first-generation professionals such as Mr. Subramanian, 43, an information technology consultant who moved his family from India in 1995.

"I think they're the first ethnic group that the majority of whom have gone directly to the suburbs instead of following the traditional pattern of settling in the city and moving to the suburbs," said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer and professor of sociology at Loyola University in Chicago.
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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bridging language gap

This class is teaching Mandarin to residents. Many Chinese immigrants are living in this area and this helps everyone communicate. DP

Free Chinese lessons offered in Flushing

BY RACHEL SCHEIER, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER New Chinese immigrants to the city have long struggled to master the language of their new home. Now some of their English-speaking neighbors are trying to return the gesture.

Thanks to popular demand, free classes in Mandarin are being offered weekly at the community center in the Bland Houses projects in downtown Flushing, the center of the city's largest Chinatown.

Donald Henton, 73, a retired MTA bus driver and longtime resident of the Bland Houses, said he broached the idea to Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) one night at a local political fund-raiser.

"We were at this meeting, and everyone was speaking Chinese," said Henton, who is on the advisory board for the Bland Houses Community Center.

"So I said, 'Why don't you get a class together so non-Asians can learn the language?'"

Liu approached Man-Li Kuo, a former Flushing resident who has been teaching Chinese language classes in her spare time for nearly 30 years.

Kuo volunteered to teach the classes, which will be held Wednesday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for 10 weeks, though Liu added that if interest is high, he will look into extending the classes. They are open to the entire community.

"Language is something to be embraced. It should not be a barrier to anyone," said Liu.
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Jefferson students all get Spanish – and a global view

These kids are learning languages and will be citizens of the world, able to converse in at least two languages. DP

By Sherry Saavedra, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER CARLSBAD – Five-year-old Ian Hackett has learned an unexpected lesson in kindergarten: Learning more Spanish translates into more friends.

At Jefferson Elementary, about two-thirds of the students are Latino, and nearly half are Spanish speakers struggling to master the English language.

Ian, who is Caucasian, transferred to Jefferson in the fall when the school became an International Baccalaureate magnet program offering students a global perspective.

The Spanish lessons are part of the program, and every student in school receives them starting in kindergarten. Ian tries out his newfound language skills on the playground and outside of school.

“When he sees his Spanish-speaking friends off campus, and I hear him address them, he uses a good accent – good rolling r's,” said Joanne Hackett, his mother.

The magnet program was designed to draw students from crowded campuses to Jefferson, where enrollment had plummeted from 850 students in 2000 to 500 last year. Enrollment would have shrunk to 450 this year, but the magnet attracted 100 new students. Half are kindergarteners.
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Escondido students tell stories of family and traditions

These kids are writing a bilingual book telling about their families and their traditions. A terrific to get the parents involved in the schools, too. DP

By PAUL EAKINS - Staff Writer Farr Avenue Elementary School students have been learning about their family and traditions, and now they want to teach the community.

As part of a schoolwide assignment called the Family Oral Stories Project, students in several third- through fifth-grade classes interviewed their parents about a family tradition, then wrote an essay and made a poster about the tradition. The project is designed to involve parents in their children's education, to make children's education meaningful to their lives, and to reach out to the rest of Escondido in the process, said Candy Harrison, one of the teachers involved.

"Families are very key in kids' education," Harrison said Tuesday. "And this is a way that families, even though they don't speak English well, can contribute to their kids' education."

The students' projects will be shown at Farr Avenue Elementary, located at 933 Farr Ave. in central Escondido, from 6 to 8:30 tonight. Many students will dress in their traditional cultural clothing, and the school's Ballet Folklorico group will perform. The event is free event open to the public,
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Capitalism thrives with immigration

By Al Lewis, Denver Post Staff Columnist Immigrants don't just take jobs. They create them.

Of U.S. publicly traded companies that got their start with venture capital financing over the past 15 years, one out of every four boasted an immigrant founder, according to a recent study by the National Venture Capital Association, based in Arlington, Va.

Today, these companies are valued at more than $500 billion. Many are among the world's most technologically sophisticated, and some are household names.

Imagine life without Intel, founded by Hungarian Andy Grove; or Google, founded by Russian Sergey Brin; or Yahoo, founded by Jerry Yang of Taiwan; or eBay, founded by Pierre Omidyar of France; or Sun Microsystems, founded by Andreas Bechtolsheim of Germany and Vinod Khosla of India.

"The United States has harnessed the intellectual power of the best and brightest minds from abroad for 300 years," said Mark Heesen, NVCA president.

Heesen's group also surveyed 340 privately held, venture-backed companies and found 47 percent had at least one immigrant founder. Immigration itself, he says, is an entrepreneurial undertaking.

"People who immigrate, by their very nature, are risk takers," he said. "They've given up what they've known to go somewhere totally unknown. It's not a big leap for them to put it all on the line and say, 'I'm going to create a company on my own and this is how I'm going to do it."'
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The Economic Benefit of High-Skill Immigrants

A very sensible commentary about the high skill foreign students studying here who are not allowed to stay and work. DP

By Ross Kaminsky As I've argued in these pages, it is a disaster for the United States that we have so few H-1B visas available for high-skill foreign workers who want to become part of the American economy. We spend years educating foreigners, especially in technical fields, and then refuse their requests to work here. Instead we say "No, go back to Bangalore or Taipei and compete against us with what you've learned here."

It is truly insane from an economic point of view. America was made great by immigrants. The current nativist trends within both political parties, but especially the GOP, represents the worst of American narrow-mindedness and a complete lack of an understanding of history.

Most Americans understand the benefits of immigration as common sense and part of the American dream. Still, it is good to see some actual data on the economic benefit to our country of immigrants, in particular immigrant entrepreneurs.

Though I'm no fan of President Bush in the area of immigration I believe he has been closer to the right answer than any other politician whose position I have heard. Yes, we need to enforce our borders and clamp down on illegal immigration, but it must be simultaneous with massively increasing the quantity of work visas available (at all skill levels) as well as reducing the time it takes to get these visas...especially for high-skill workers whom we would rather see working for the benefit of our nation than competing against us.

These immigrants love the United States. In the full study, the NVCA notes that "Immigrant-founded venture-backed public companies today employ an estimated 220,000 people in the United States" and that "Nearly all the immigrant founders in private companies (95 percent) would still start their companies in the United States if given the choice today."
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Cristo in the Heartland

Across the nation, Latino pastors like Orel Garcia are leading immigrant ministries in the most unlikely places.
By Libby Page Gladys Garcia stands quietly before a room of 50 Latinos. She places a transparency on a projector with the lyrics to the hymn "Vivo por Cristo" ("I live for Christ"). The light shines the words on the wall, and the congregation, most of them from Oaxaca, Mexico, joins her in the worship song. This service, which is conducted entirely in Spanish, wouldn't be out of place in Mexico, California, or Texas. But this service is happening in Osage Beach, a town of 4,000 in the heart of rural Missouri.

The Hispanic ministry at Osage Hills Baptist Church is the work of Gladys and her husband, Pastor Orel Garcia. Orel started the ministry in September 2001 as a Bible study in the church basement. But as the Hispanic population grew, so did the meetings, until they became full-fledged church services.

This is only one of many signs of the largest demographic shift in recent history taking place before our eyes. Store signs, product packaging, television, and radio are all turning up in Spanish, so bilingual and Spanish-only church services seem a natural progression. However, the changes are not without controversy. On Dec. 16, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill—HR 4437—that would have ushered in a more aggressive policy on illegal immigration. If the bill were passed in the Senate, social-service organizations—and even churches—helping undocumented immigrants would have been considered in violation of the law. The bill did not pass in the Senate, but it demonstrates the dilemma churches face. As demonstrators and protesters hit the streets in our nation's cities to ask for immigration reform, Orel and Gladys felt the pressure rising.
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Asian immigrants preserve culture while adapting to western ways

By RAMESH SANTANAM, Associated Press PITTSBURGH - Archana Patel celebrates Hindu religious festivals, cooks Indian vegetarian food, watches Bollywood movies with friends and knows her marriage will be arranged.

Chandrasiri Jayakody and Ananda Gunawardena join fellow Sri Lankans at monthly alms-giving ceremonies at a new Buddhist temple and cultural center just outside of Pittsburgh.

And architect Mimi Jong, who plays an ancient Chinese musical instrument known as the erhu, founded a musical group to nurture crosscultural understanding through art.

She and the others are all American citizens and part of a growing number of Asians who have settled in western Pennsylvania. And while they've adapted to living in America, many still find ways to maintain and promote their cultural heritage.

"I am very adamant about my Indian identity. It's a big part of me and it stays with me all the time," said Patel, 25, a University of Pittsburgh law student who has lived in the U.S. for 18 years.

Patel has sought out Indian friends at Pitt and believes it's important for her to do so.

"We are a lost generation of Indian-Americans. We are Indian and American and we fit into neither completely," Patel said. "We try to figure out which culture to fit into our lifestyles and identity."

In the past two decades, Asians have made up half of the immigrants coming to western Pennsylvania. Lured here by the region's growing high-tech and medical industries or to be educated at one of the universities, many make sure they pass their cultural traditions on to their children.
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Key to U.S. industry? Immigrants

By Michael Kanellos The U.S. tech industry is dependent on people from foreign lands, according to a study from the National Venture Capital Foundation.

Over the past 15 years, immigrants have founded 25 percent of all publicly-traded companies that had venture backing, from tech companies to consumer ones. Most of the companies these immigrants start, moreover, are based around technology. And 40 percent of all publicly traded companies with venture backing in technology manufacturing were founded by immigrants.

Legal immigrants only constitute a small fraction of the population: approximately 6.7 percent of the population in 1990 and 8.7 percent today.

These businesses founded by immigrants employ 400,000 people, the study found.

Unfortunately, the number of foreigners enrolling in science and engineering graduate programs in the U.S. have been declining since 2002.

"While the debate in Congress has focused on illegal immigration, American companies have identified significant problems with our current system for admitting skilled foreign born professionals on temporary visas and green cards," the report stated.

Legal immigrants to U.S. face green card logjam

By Tim Gaynor, Reuters PHOENIX (Reuters) - Following all the rules, Indian national Sanjay Mehta came to the United States on a temporary work visa in 1997, hoping to build a glittering career in the fast-moving information technology sector.

But nine years later his application for a green card remains snarled up in a bureaucratic logjam, and he looks with frustration at the strides made by illegal immigrants who he says simply jumped the fence from Mexico.

"Washington has taken notice of them ... But what about the plight of legal immigrants to this country? We seem to have been forgotten," said Mehta, who settled in Arizona with his wife and raised two children.

Many of the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States are hopeful of gains from a new Democrat-led Congress next year, after massive street protests in U.S. cities pushed their cause to the top of the political agenda earlier in the year.

But more than a million legal immigrants like Mehta from as far afield as Europe, India and China complain that their lives have been placed on hold as they battle red tape to become permanent residents in the United States.
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Millions of U.S. households "linguistically isolated"

By Suzannah Gonzales, Eunice Moscoso, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Spanish tops the list of languages other than English spoken in the Austin area, followed by Asian languages like Vietnamese and Korean. But Urdu also can be heard in Austin, along with Dutch in Round Rock and Russian in Hays County.

It's a language smorgasbord prevalent throughout the state and the country.

About 6 million Texans older than age 5 spoke a language other than English in 2000, and of those, about 2.7 million spoke English less than "very well," the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

In 14 million U.S. households, people speak a language other than English. Of those households, 3 million are "linguistically isolated," where all members 14 years and older have at least some difficulty with English, the report found.

The Census Bureau's national data, which were based on information from the 2000 census, also showed that about one in five people over the age of 5 spoke a language other than English that year and that about one in eight spoke English less than "very well."

The data included new details about foreign language speakers in each state, including income and education levels that show the difficulty non-English speakers may face in finding good paying jobs.

"I definitely feel that bilingual education is important," said Cook Elementary School teacher Brooke Holland, who speaks both English and Spanish in the classroom. "As a fifth-grade teacher, it's important for (students) to gain the skills in English to be successful in middle school."
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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Despite challenges, teachers and students forge ahead

A school that is using English immersion to quickly teach immigrant children, instead of bilingual, which takes a long time. DP

By Deborah Turner, The Dallas Morning News CACTUS, Texas - "Torns?" asks one student.

"No, `T-H-orns,'" responds another.

"Que? Que dijiste? (What? What did you say?)"

Peals of laughter blend with conversations in Spanish as students in Stacy Murphy's class quiz one another for their impending English vocabulary test.

On the other side of the room, Anna Vazquez, a bilingual transition assistant, works with third- through sixth-grade students who are learning the language.

These are the children of immigrants who call Cactus home - their parents drawn to the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant by the prospect of a steady wage and a chance to provide their children with a decent education.

At Cactus Elementary, 99.3 percent of students are Hispanic, and 77 percent are classified as limited English proficient, the highest rate in the state.

In sharp contrast, the teaching staff is 95.1 percent white and mostly non-Spanish-speaking, including Murphy.

So educators have turned to total English immersion - bypassing the state-mandated bilingual education - to teach the children. That's partly out of necessity, said Cactus Elementary principal Carla Tafoya, because the state does not have enough qualified bilingual educators to go around.

But also because Tafoya believes that total immersion works.
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Beach school stresses Vietnamese heritage, values

These people understand how important it is to retain their heritage, but still become Americans. It is possible to do both. DP

By GILLIAN GAYNAIR, The Virginian-Pilot VIRGINIA BEACH - On a dry erase board, Quynh-Uyen Nguyen drew a series of straight and squiggly lines and a dot.

She pointed to the figures and, in Vietnamese, asked a group of 5- to 7-year-olds to repeat after her as she identified them: "Dau sac! Dau huyen! Dau hoi! Dau nga! Dau nang!" Each of the five accent marks alters how words are pronounced and what they mean.

Across the hall, older students read and translated sentences out loud. Around the corner, others practiced vocabulary.

It was a typical Sunday afternoon for nearly 50 children who are learning - reluctantly, at first - their parents' native language and traditions. The two-hour classes take place in rented rooms at Kings Grant Elementary School and are one of the main endeavors of the newly formed Vietnamese Youth of Hampton Roads organization.

The language school, called Lac-Viet, was launched in September out of parents' concern that their children had little knowledge of their roots and couldn't communicate with their grandparents.

Among the estimated 47,800 Asians in Hampton Roads, about 3,600 are Vietnamese. While Lac-Viet is the only one of its kind here, other language schools in the area include those that focus on Greek and Chinese.

"We are the bridge" to help them understand their heritage, said Tri Barsell, a parent and the school's principal. Parents also hope that through the classes, children will gain an appreciation for certain Vietnamese values the adults grew up with, in addition to the American values they've adopted.
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Immigrants Voice Their Stories

More stories showing the hard time immigrants have when they first come here, yet they are all thankful and feel it was worth while. DP

By Angela Pang Culture shock is what a 25-year-old Talat Hasan faced when she emigrated from India to the United States in 1977.

"When our waitress brought out a plate of food, I thought it was enough for the four of us to share," recalls Hasan. "I was horrified to discover that the plate was for one person!"

Hasan is just one of eight Bay Area residents who will be sharing their personal immigration experiences in an original 30-minute documentary premiering on KQED Jan. 24. The film, Immigrant Voices – American Stories, is part of KQED’s Immigration in Focus, a yearlong collection of thought-provoking programs, special reports and events about the complex issues surrounding immigration.

Vince Gutierrez received his green card in May 2004, and is waiting for his wife and young son in the Philippines to join him. Current immigration laws prohibit his family from coming to the U.S. for at least five years.

"I sometimes feel like giving up and just returning to the Philippines to be with my wife and son," said Guiterrez, who has only seen his newborn son twice in the last year. "But when he comes here, he’ll have good opportunities."

Guiterrez has been receiving emotional support from, an organization that is lobbying Congress to reinstitute the V-visa, which would allow spouses and children to be reunited with green card holders more quickly.

For Jade Wu, who emigrated from China in 1999, living in the U.S. without being able to speak English has been hard. She spent four months in Ohio with her husband before deciding to move to San Francisco.
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A passion to teach

Fifth in a seven-part series of stories exploring how Mainers are helping neighbors in need.


PressHerald/ Give her some violet or gold fabric, a sewing machine and a well-lit space, and Adele Ngoy can make a beautiful dress for you.

But she would rather have you pull up a chair alongside hers, so she can explain how certain colors work together, show you the precision of the stitching.

She would rather give you something that will last.

"My passion is to teach people, so women can do sewing and alterations in their homes," said Ngoy, who fled civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and arrived in Portland in 2000. "I know I have a lot in me. I want to share that."
Ngoy, 41, is known as a local expert on African clothing.

More than that, she is earning a reputation as a helper in the city's growing immigrant community. Ngoy first volunteered to teach sewing three years ago, and she has made the annual classes a mission of empowerment, designed to provide skills and confidence to refugee women.

Some of her students are mothers who want to make clothes for their families. Some work as laborers full time, and want to find better jobs. All struggle to make ends meet in their new city.

"Some of them have never gone to school," Ngoy said. "Sewing is not easy, but they enjoy it. It's a better job than carrying heavy boxes."

You don't have to look far to see Ngoy's impact. Some of the colorful garments worn here by the women of Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan and other African nations were stitched by Ngoy. Many others were crafted by women who have gone through her free class at the Parkside Neighborhood Center.
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