Saturday, February 18, 2006

Report chronicles immigrants' hardships

Amazing stories of the hard life undocumented workers put up with to live here. I think they have to be given a way to live here legally if they have been working and are not in any legal trouble. DP

By Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle Times: They tell stories of job-related exploitation — of being cheated out of rightful pay for work done.

They speak of not having health coverage or money to send their children to college.

In a report about the experiences of immigrants in the Northwest, some 230 interviewed reveal what lured them to the U.S. in the first place: economic opportunities, a desire to join family here, the spread of war and death in their home countries.

One 40-year-old man explained that he attempted seven times to cross into the U.S. from Mexico: "You don't just go back to your house and say, 'Well, I'll try again later,' " he said. "Our home was far away, so we had to live in the street near the border and keep trying with different people until we made it."

The report, "In Our Own Words: Immigrants' Experiences in the Northwest," released Tuesday by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, chronicles the lives of 230 of the region's most vulnerable immigrants — two-thirds of them undocumented — living in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

"I read this report and am reminded of the stories of my own family coming from Mexico and the hardship that they endured as farmers ... ," said Magdeleno Rose-Avila, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, one of the organizations that participated in the report.

"We hear the stories of these people every day in our offices," he said. "Once you meet immigrants — whether they're from Somalia, Eritrea, Mexico ... Haiti, you understand why we must protect their rights."
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Immigrants share cultures, faith

African immigrants in the Louisville area support each other, helping others settle and succeed in this country. DP

African Christian Fellowship Group may buy space for meetings

By Christopher Hall, Special to The Courier-Journal
The Courier-Journal: In only 10 years, a Louisville-area group of Christian immigrants from across Africa has grown from about 20 adults and children meeting in people's homes to nearly 120 gathering weekly at Northeast Christian Church on Brownsboro Road.

The group, the Louisville Chapter of the African Christian Fellowship, has nearly outgrown the space that Northeast Christian allows it to use in the church's fellowship hall, and it may soon look for its own place.

The members focus on Christ and Christian living but also offer support to each other, according to chapter president Joseph Omotinugbon. Those who have been in the country longer offer advice to newcomers and help them adjust to the culture, he said.

"We try to be one another's brother's keeper, or sister's keeper," Omotinugbon said.

The African Christian Fellowship is a national organization with chapters in most states, said Omotinugbon, a native of Nigeria who now lives in Jeffersonville, Ind. Members of the Louisville chapter come mostly from Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana, Omotinugbon said.
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Speaking English can open the doors of opportunity for immigrants

A story about 2 friends who came to the U.S. together, one learned English and prospered and the other didn't. DP

Both Worlds Eduardo Montalvo
Osceola News Gazette: More than 10 years ago, Juan and Jose crossed the southern border of the U.S. to pursue their own versions of the American dream.

Juan, also known as John, was a young man with a strong desire to prosper. He was always looking for opportunities to make money. Jose was also a very talented young man but would rather look for the easy way to get ahead.

Neither of them spoke a word of English when they arrived in this country. They came equipped with only hope and their bare hands.

After the first year, their situation was simply pathetic. They hardly survived doing occasional jobs, without a regular income, and were constantly scared that “La Migra” would find them and send them back home. With no legal documents or knowledge of English, their future was more than compromised.

They constantly prayed and asked God for guidance. They prayed and prayed, but no answer came from above.

John was the first to realize that something had to be done; otherwise he had to go back where he came from. If he wanted to get the most of the opportunities offered by this country, he had to do something different to get different results.

He enrolled in English classes at night, at a neighborhood school. It was hard for him to stay awake during class after a day’s work. In the beginning, he couldn’t understand much of this new and difficult language, but he was determined to learn. He understood that learning English was the only way for him to overcome the difficulties of his present life.
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Minnesota by far leads nation in Somali immigrants

An unlikely group of immigrants in a northern state, all adding to the wonderful mix that is the U.S. DP

By PATRICK CONDON, Associated Press
The Grand Forks Herald: MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota saw its third largest influx of immigrants in a quarter century in 2004, with immigrants from Somalia leading the pack.

In all, 11,708 legal immigrants came to Minnesota in 2004, according to Department of Homeland Security data released by the State Demographic Center.

That put the state at 16th nationally, but it was first in the number of Somali immigrants, at 1,445. Ohio was a distant second, with 572 Somali immigrants.

Faced with political turmoil and violent unrest in their home country, Somali refugees started coming to the U.S. in large numbers in the mid-1990s. Minnesota quickly became a favored destination, thanks at least in part to a number of well-organized groups established to help immigrants settle, such as Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities.

The mid-90s Minnesota economy was also a draw, said Barbara Ronningen of the State Demographic Center, offering plenty of job opportunities for immigrants who wanted them.

Before long, Ronningen said, a Somali community started to establish itself.

"It's fairly common in immigration, when there's a critical mass - a large group of people from the same places - that they will attract more people from their home country," she said.

In 2004, the total number of Somali residents of Minnesota was estimated to be 25,000, and Ronningen said it could be as high as 30,000 now - with no sign of slowing down.

"There's no place for them to return to in Africa," Ronningen said. "Somalia has no government and it's still very chaotic and dangerous."

Of Minnesota's 11,708 immigrants last year, the largest number (4,319) came from Africa. That put the state at fifth in the nation for number of African immigrants, behind only California, New York, Texas and Maryland.

Other countries well-represented among Minnesota's new immigrants in 2004 were Ethiopia, Mexico, India, the Philippines, China and Vietnam.

The vast majority of Minnesota's immigrants, almost 84 percent, settled in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Citizenship ceremony a baptism of tears

Everyone who is born here should witness one of these. They will see how much these people value their new citizenship. DP

By Tina Griego
Rocky Mountain News: I really should have warned the people sitting around me at elementary school teacher Alberto Olivarez's citizenship ceremony to have some tissues handy.

As it was, the women around me soon were dabbing their eyes with their fingertips and then wiping their cheeks with their palms and, finally, using the sleeves of their sweaters to dry their faces.

This was my second ceremony and last year, after I staggered out of my first red-eyed and runny- nosed, I wrote that they all should be held in stadiums and school gymnasiums so that those of us born here could be reminded of what we take for granted.

Well, this one was held in a gymnasium at South Elementary School in Brighton last Friday. I assumed the people near me were moved by Olivarez's own emotion, this much-praised teacher who first came to Colorado on an exchange program in May 2000, a man from a family so poor, he once sold vegetables on the streets in his home state of Michoacan in Mexico.

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Helper at the gateway

This immigrant community learns how to live here from one of its own who has been here longer. DP

An immigrant guides his people on America's ways Hmong immigrant bridges two cultures.

By Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff
The Boston Globe: BROCKTON -- When there is trouble in a Hmong marriage, it is Ter Yang's job to tell a husband that here in America, paying $10,000 for a wife does not mean he owns her, as he might a car.

When a Hmong family arrives fresh from a refugee camp in Thailand, Yang will call on them bearing lemongrass, health insurance applications, and the news that they must send the girls to school along with the boys.

Yang, 55, helps his community thread a way between Hmong tradition and American culture -- deciphering doctors' orders, calming skittish job applicants, smoothing conflicts. He is the unofficial mayor of the Hmong community in Massachusetts, leading the Hmong here just as his father led the ethnic minority in Laos decades ago.

''He's like the mayor, or the village leader," said Ann Whittaker, a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who works with the 1,000 or so ethnic Hmong who she says live in Brockton. ''If you want anything done, you have to go through Ter."
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Really seeing the faces of immigrants

A state senator has changed his mind and has proposed a more tolerant bill for allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrant children under certain circumstances. DP

A state Senate tuition bill sets aside stereotypes to assist a generation brought here illegally.

By Kristi Haunfelder, staff writer
The Roanoke Times: Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., took his punitive immigrant tuition bill and wrung the meanness from it. He crafted legislation that won Senate support by treating with compassion immigrant children reared in Virginia. His conversion is laudable.

Hanger, an Augusta Republican, formerly subscribed to the school of thought that people who come to this country illegally shouldn't be rewarded with the benefits of a society supported by true Virginians. That kind of thinking led him to propose an immigrant tuition bill that would have required state colleges to charge out-of-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants, if the schools accepted them at all.

But Hanger had a change of heart. Perhaps it came with the realization that while his colleagues might support his bill, Gov. Tim Kaine would not.

Perhaps it was the reaffirmation of patriotism and recognition of the United States' great melting pot while presiding at naturalization ceremonies.

Or perhaps it was one face alone, belonging to the woman his son had chosen to make his bride, an immigrant from the Philippines who recently received her U.S. citizenship.

Perhaps a bit of each shaped Hanger's compassionate discovery that laws aren't created in a vacuum. Undocumented immigrants aren't simply an issue that can be generalized away with stereotypes. They are people.
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Students melt into pot of Lake Country

Another story explaining how hard it is to function without knowing the language. And how hard it is to learn, and how there are teachers who are helping them learn. DP

Hobr zr upit yotrf, Upit qppt, upit jiffarf zsddrd urstmomh yp ntrsyjr gtrr.

By Kristi Haunfelder, staff writer
Lake Country Reporter: Imagine this was hand written on a chalkboard. Imagine any spoken language around you sounds like a garbled mess.

Walk into the foreign language section of a bookstore or library and look at a language like Chinese or Russian that doesn't even use a familiar alphabet, and you might get an idea of what it's like to attend school and try to learn without speaking the language.

"I went to the Spanish section and picked up a magazine," said Linda Catterson, a teacher who works with English language learners at the Kettle Moraine School District. It helped Catterson imagine what her students must be thinking and feeling.

This year, her first with Kettle Moraine, Catterson has 26 students on a regular basis, not a large number in a district with more than 4,300 students, but the Lake Country has been seeing more English language learners during the last few years.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No-excuses education

I hope school districts all over the country look at what these educators are doing. And copy it! DP

By Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Express-News Staff Writer HIDALGO — The odds are stacked against the children here.

The tiny border town sandwiched between McAllen and Reynosa, Mexico, is one of the poorest in the country.

About seven of 10 children begin school speaking no English.

Many walk to school from neighborhoods that hug the banks of the Rio Grande. Some live in shanty houses and camper trailers with no running water. They're the children of immigrants and migrant workers, the children education researchers say have little chance of succeeding.

But there's something special going on in Hidalgo. The tiny school district of 3,200 students is shattering stereotypes.

In Hidalgo, every 3-year-old has access to free, full-day pre-kindergarten with a certified teacher. Students leave elementary school fluent in two languages. Educators give parents the means to learn English, earn their GED and go to community college.

And the successes aren't just limited to a few feel-good stories.

While the achievement gap between Latino and Anglo students is growing nationally, the students of Hidalgo — where more than 99 percent are Hispanic and about 93 percent come from poor homes — are outpacing most districts in Texas. The state has ranked Hidalgo either recognized or exemplary for the past eight years.
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Monday, February 06, 2006

Rewriting Book on Libraries From Immigrants' View

Many immigrants are using the libraries as their place to learn culture and language. This has increased the use of libraries. A great use of the library, in my opinion. DP

Branches Catering to Immigrant Needs

By Cameron W. Barr, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Washington Post: After Shahla Mostafavi arrived in Montgomery County from Iran a decade ago, the public library became her comfort and refuge -- a place to learn about her adopted land and meet new people. "For immigrants, the first place they usually go is the library," she said last week as she sat in the Gaithersburg branch library.

In the next room, Fares Azzoug, 25, an Algerian, checked his e-mail and filled out a Selective Service form on one of the library's computers. He later joined Cesar Chavez, a Salvadoran, and a score of other new arrivals for an English conversation club. "For me, it's very, very important," said Chavez, gamely practicing his new language. "When I came, I am not speaking any English."

As the Washington suburbs draw more immigrants, many of the region's public libraries are recasting themselves as welcome centers for "new Americans," emulating a program pioneered decades ago in the New York borough of Queens. Signs at the Gaithersburg branch identify the checkout desk in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. The profusion of return dates stamped on the back of Chinese romance novels shows the popularity of the library's growing foreign-language collections.
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Easing the transition: Project helps immigrants succeed through training

It is so amazing, the amount of work it takes for immigrants to get to the point where they can speak the language, and function every day as Americans. Such determination! DP

By Vesna Jaksic
The Advocate, Stamford: As she waited for her computer class to start, Veronica Cabezas skimmed through newspaper classified ads for jobs.

"I check every day," the 25-year-old Ecuadorian said. "I'm looking for maybe baby-sitting, housekeeping."

But finding work has been difficult because of her limited English and lack of references in the United States, so Cabezas enrolled in Project Succeed, a program that teaches English, computer, job-hunting and other skills.

A new group of students, mostly recent immigrants, started their semester in Project Succeed last week. Some had never seen a computer until they moved to the United States. Others have years of computer training but need to learn English and improve their job-hunting skills. But as the program's name suggests, all aim to succeed in their new home.

"Everybody here has a story, and everybody's story is different," said Roslyn Nesin, program administrator of Stamford Adult and Continuing Education, which holds the class at the Adult Learning Center on Washington Boulevard.

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These days more immigrants say, ‘Show me Missouri’

People from Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Cuba, Mexico and Albania all living in one community and working and learning English to be able to live comfortably in their new country. Many gave up good careers in their own country to live here in safety and build a better life for their children. DP

The Kansas City Star: Former Bosnians thrive in St. Louis. Asian immigrants buy chicken farms in southwest Missouri. African refugees settle into Kansas City.

And that’s not even counting the steady stream of Hispanics.

Missouri has become a hotter destination for immigrants the last few years compared with the 1990s, an analysis of U.S. Census data by The Kansas City Star shows.

On average, about 13,200 immigrants have moved into Missouri each year since 2000. That is up 66 percent from the 1990s.

And it makes Missouri among the biggest climbers nationwide. The state ranks ninth when comparing this decade’s immigration to that of the 1990s.

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Little sponges

A very interesting piece saying that different programs work in different schools. There should be flexibility and the decision should be left to the local educators. Something must be done to slow the drop out rate of Hispanic children. DP

Politics should not determine how we teach English to Spanish-speaking children.

Houston Chronicle: Texas requires school districts to offer bilingual education classes in cases in which a school has 20 or more limited-English students in the same grade. Districts receive additional state funding for teaching these students, so it makes sense to examine periodically whether these special programs are having desired outcomes.

As state board member Gail Lowe said, "It's incumbent on us to be informed about successful programs."

But board members also must pay attention to what does not work well. They might find no teaching method is a good fit in every situation.

For example, immersion advocates point out that young minds absorb new languages like sponges when they are surrounded by foreign speakers. But in Houston, Spanish-speaking students predominate at a number of elementary schools. Even if students received their lessons in English, they'd still be immersed in their native language on the playground, in the cafeteria, at home and in their community. Some bilingual instruction is essential in this environment.

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Lost in translation: English-only Latinos sometimes face a barrier to their own culture

Here is the language problem from the view of a Latina who does not speak Spanish. Interesting. DP

By: ADRIAN GOMEZ - Staff Writer

North Country Times: Sandra Ponce works helping youths and their parents for a living. Yet with all the communication her job entails, she's afraid sometimes that her words will be lost in translation.

Ponce is among a growing number of first-, second- and third-generation Latinos who grew up speaking English only and now find themselves facing an identity crisis.

"Because I don't speak Spanish, people look at me like I'm not Latino enough," Ponce said. "I understand it (the language) ---- I just can't respond."

Ponce is the assistant director of the Upward Bound Program at Cal State San Marcos. The program is designed to help high school students develop the skills and motivation necessary to ensure high school graduation and future success in college.

A big part of Ponce's job is going to meetings conducted in English and Spanish.

"What my colleague and I do is split the meeting in two," she said. "I will speak in English, while she translates in Spanish."

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Schools train parents as teachers

A terrific program to teach the parents, so they will be better parents and raise smarter kids. DP

Hands-on tactic can yield smarter students, also educates mom, dad
By Jeff Commings
arizona daily star: Angel Rodriguez wiggles his fingers, enjoying the feel of the shaving cream on his hands.

Then he does what any normal 3-year-old would do, and smears the goo all over the table in front of him, laughing along with other overjoyed toddlers.

Angel's mother, Sonia, stands over him, urging him to make as much of a mess as possible.
Angel doesn't know it yet, but these weekly one-hour sessions with Mom are putting him on track to be one of the smartest students in his class.

In a multifaceted push to increase student scores on standardized tests and bring underperforming schools out of their ruts, administrators are looking to students' parents, who they see as key factors in improving student performance.

Some parents, like Sonia Rodriguez, are taking a hands-on approach to improving their children's motor skills, which can translate to smarter students. Others are learning English and getting GED diplomas as a way to better understand their kids' classes. And still other parents are using their children's' schools to learn tax preparation and other skills.

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Mayor Bloomberg: Illegal Immigrants Don't Cost Taxpayers

Mayor Bloomberg says illegal immigrants don't use medical services until they are extremely ill, so don't drive up costs for the taxpayers. He points out that it would cost less if they used medical services before they were very ill. DP

by Carl Limbacher and Staff New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that illegal immigration doesn't drive up costs for New York City taxpayers because illegals don't utilize the services that are available to them.

Challenged by a caller who complained during Bloomberg's weekly WABC Radio show that illegal immigration had caused health care costs to spiral out of control, the mayor cited unnamed studies that he said prove the charge simply isn't true.

"Unfortunately, the undocumented workers don't avail themselves of services until their situation is dire," Bloomberg insisted, adding that it would be better if more illegals accessed health care facilities at an earlier stage in their illnesses.

Instead, the mayor claimed, illegal immigrants don't use available health care facilities because they're afraid of being reported to immigration officials, which he emphasized is not the case in New York City.

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