Thursday, June 29, 2006

An eager young immigrant, a tough nun, and the rest is history

This story show the determination of immigrants to succeed here. This man came here as a 9 year old Russian Jew who had spent time in concentration camps in Italy. Now he is a successful American history professor. DP

By staff reporter When he was 9 years old, Victor Sapio and his mother came to the United States.

He spoke no English, but thanks to a nun with incredible patience and a good backhand, he soon learned the language of his new country.

And the rest is history -- a Ph.D. in American history and a long, successful career as a college teacher.

"I've come a long way, baby," Sapio said recently from his Scenic Heights home.

His story is especially timely since America's birthday, July 4, is barely a week away, and illegal immigration is a roiling topic.

Sapio spent most of his early years in a concentration camp in Italy. His offense: He and his mother were Russian Jews.

Eventually, thanks to a family friend, they made their way to New York City.

Sapio, an only child who never knew his father, already spoke Italian, French and German, but no English.

He and other immigrants had two priorities: to learn English and to play baseball.

"We all wanted to be Americans," he said.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Learning experience: Volunteer enjoys work at community center

These volunteers are teaching English after first having to learn it themselves. It gives them a good understanding of how difficult it is. DP

By MERYL WILLIAMS, T-R Staff Writer : For the last nine months Elizabeth Gabriel, 25, of Bolivia has been helping teach English to Hispanic residents of Tuscarawas County.

She’s also learned a few things.

“I have learned a lot,” said the volunteer at the Latin American Community Center at Dover, noting that she had to learn the language in order to teach it.

Gabriel said she was able to read and write a little English, “but only basic things,” when she began her work as a volunteer through the International Visitor Exchange Program. She said many people in the program learn a second language as they go.

“It was hard for me to understand everyone here,” said Gabriel, explaining the center’s volunteers have the same problem with Spanish. “Their Spanish is different. It’s a second language for them.”

She’s also noticed the different dialects of English that people within the United States have that differentiate them geographically from each other.

“There are different people speaking different English,” she said.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

These kids will rescue America

A wonderful story. Read the whole thing, PLEASE! DP

By Ginger Rutland -- Bee Columnist : I graduated from high school 40 years ago this month, a milestone I happily would have overlooked had I not been invited to deliver the commencement address at West Campus High School. Formerly an offshoot of Hiram Johnson High School, West Campus is firmly established as its own independent campus within the Sacramento City Unified School District.
Why me, a relatively anonymous member of The Sacramento Bee editorial board? It seems one of the teachers at West Campus is a fan. He hears my weekly commentaries on Capital Public Radio.

Flattered by the invitation, I was busily preparing to impart all the wisdom I had learned in my 40 years since high school when the teacher who invited me to speak suggested I visit the campus to get a feel for the school and meet some of the graduates. I wasn't at West Campus 10 minutes before I decided to can my "life's journey speech."

The kids I met sent chills up my back. It was clear I didn't need to tell them about life's challenges; they had met formidable challenges of their own. I'm convinced they and kids like them will rescue America.

When I first saw Chan Fong Saeteurn, his hair was spiked, and he was break dancing on stage with about six of his buddies. Chan is the son of immigrants from Laos. His parents were part of an entire village that fled genocide. They crossed forests and rivers to reach safety in Thailand. A grandfather and aunt died on that journey.

The family is in this country now. They own their home and have a son who can break dance and will be going to college next year.
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Immigrants living in area strive to embrace English as the national language

Another story about how much immigrants want to learn English. They know it is the best way to succeed here. DP

By Terry L. Jones

The Shreveport Times : The simple communication skills it takes to lead an average American life can be a task larger than life for some immigrants living in the area who may soon be forced to recognize English as their national language if U.S. lawmakers, and President Bush, have their say.

On May 25, in a 62-36 vote, the U.S. Senate approved an amendment of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that would declare English as the national language -- a move that has national immigration law officials perturbed, and local non-English speaking immigrants unfazed.

"There's a misconception that immigrants in this country don't want to learn English," said Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy for the National Immigration Law Center.

"For (the government) to think that immigrants devalue English is not true because they are at a disadvantage," Bernstein said.

Local people enrolled in English as a second language classes at the Bossier Learning Center agree.

Nestled between the 600 blocks of Ogilvie and Coleman streets along Monroe, the center's ESL teachers and program director are trying to mold area immigrants into the Americans of tomorrow.

"We run about 200 students a year here," said Jerry Allen, director of the Adult Education Program. "Some voluntary, some the courts send here."
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A program to teach "world languages" in the classroom gives young students a chance to broaden their horizons. Children in Europe and Asia learn 2 or 3 languages at a time, it is time our kids did too. DP


Philadelphia Daily News : The first-graders squirmed in their seats when Loesche Elementary School teacher Alla Karetny asked them their names - in Russian.

A boy named Sergey shot his arm up high, eager to answer, but Karetny told him to hold off a minute. Sergey's parents speak Russian and Karetny knew he could answer easily.

She called on Solomon instead.

One brief false start later, Solomon, a slender youngster of 6 or 7, relaxed. "Menya zovut Solomon," he said, a confident smile flashing across his face.

Later came story time - in Russian, with animal puppets called by their Russian names. After the story, the first-graders practiced writing in the Russian alphabet the words for "my family," "mother," "father," "sister," "brother," and "dog" or "cat."

Russian has been a part of classrooms at the William H. Loesche School, on Tomlinson Road at Bustleton Avenue in the Northeast, for the past six years - proof of the Philly public schools' changing attitudes toward non-English speaking students.

The rest of the city may be hung up on the proper language for ordering a cheesesteak, but the city schools are increasingly comfortable with languages other than English.

The school district estimates that as many as 111 languages are spoken in the homes of its 200,000-plus students. Parents can get important school papers in eight languages other than English.

But some of the biggest changes are happening in classrooms.
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Courage? Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This is a wonderful story about a teacher in Brooklyn, with students from 24 countries. They learned and performed "The Wizard of Oz", learned English and discovered that, with courage, dreams do come true. DP


The New York Times: DIANA SENECHAL is a first-year teacher of immigrant students at I.S. 223, a middle school in Brooklyn, and maybe, if she'd been more experienced, she would have known better than to have her students perform "The Wizard of Oz" when they were so new to this country and spoke so little English.

They arrived at I.S. 223 talking 24 different languages and not knowing a soul. About the only thing they shared was a shyness of speaking English aloud.

Ms. Senechal figured, what better way to give them confidence than to have them sing and dance in an hour-and-a-half-long musical, for three performances at the end of the school year, in the big auditorium, before a thousand strangers?

Her students weren't so sure. As Shamsul Huda from Bangladesh, the Tin Man, said, "I'm scary to do it."

Rehearsals started in January, and it was slow going. Sergio Sanchez, from Mexico, the lead Munchkin, was so shy, he kept running away. "The funny thing about Sergio, he loved running away," Ms. Senechal said. "We were rehearsing in my room and he just stood outside for an hour; he wouldn't come in."

In the auditorium, he hid behind the curtains. Still, Ms. Senechal did not give up. "It's a positive pattern," she explained. "He hides but wants to be here."

Laura Fronczak of Poland — Glinda the Good Witch — kept refusing to sing her big solo. She'd have a giggling fit and announce, "Miss, I can't sing today," and it was like Greta Garbo wanting to be alone; there was nothing Ms. Senechal could do, except wait, for weeks. "When Laura finally sang," Ms. Senechal said, "it was such a big event, I called her parents."
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Immigrants see need for English

A good story showing that immigrants understand how important it is that they learn English in order to succeed here. DP

Survey results show most Hispanics view language as essential

By Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News

Rocky Mountain News: Israel Salgado wants to become a medical assistant.
But first, he has to master English and pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language to qualify for college.

"I think it's important for people (immigrants) to learn the culture, the language, the tradition of the country in which people are living," said Salgado, 27, who is studying English at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School. "It's part of assimilation. English is the official language of the United States."

Salgado's sentiments echo a 2004 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, which found that a majority of Hispanics believe that immigrants have to speak English to be part of American society.

"The numbers speak for themselves," said Gabriel Escobar, associate director of the center. "It leaves no doubt. Hispanics, regardless whether they speak English or not, are citizens or not, regard acquiring English as important."

The center decided to release partial results from national surveys of Hispanics that it conducted in 2003 and 2004 after President Bush spoke about the need for immigrants to learn American values and English.

"It's part of the debate," Escobar said. "The president has weighed in on the English language issue, and it's been explored in a public survey."

The center's 2004 telephone survey on politics and civics education polled 2,288 Hispanics across the country.

Fifty-seven percent of foreign-born and 52 percent of native- born said "yes" to the question: "Do immigrants have to speak English to say they are part of American society or not?"

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Learning two languages, one at a time

This story is about an organization teaching immigrants to first read and write in their native language, Spanish, and then teaching them English. DP

Life in the U.S. can be hard for a new immigrant. It's even more difficult when they can't read or write in their own language. This is a common story for many Latin American immigrants from impoverished backgrounds with little education.

by Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Public Radio: St. Paul, Minn. — In a Minneapolis classroom, Apolinar closely examines the day's newspaper. The words have absolutely no meaning to him. But he's looking at a story with lots of pictures. They tell him it's about a town in his home of Morelos, Mexico. He's excited to tell his teacher and classmate what he sees.

Apolinar is 33 and he's learning to read and write in Spanish. His class is being used for research purposes and all students have been granted anonymity. But Apolinar is letting us use his first name. He says it's hard to get by.

"It's really ugly to not know how to read and write in this country," says Apolinar. "You have to struggle more."

Apolinar's voice is shaky as he tells his story. He moved to Minnesota two years ago. Today, he works for a landscaping company as a gardener. He tears up when he says had to turn down a job promotion because he didn't even know how to spell his name. So he started looking for Spanish literacy classes.

These classes are hard to find. That's because the state and federal governments only give money to adult education programs taught in English. Apolinar found a volunteer tutor through Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES), a nonprofit organization serving the Latino community in the Twin Cities.
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Monday, June 12, 2006

A pledge of allegiance

Another story about a new citizen and the problems he encountered during his very long wait for this day. DP

By Julie Wurth

The News-Gazette: URBANA – In a little more than 24 hours, Arturo Alvarado will be sworn in as an American citizen. And he's not about to blow it.

He's waited too long for this day – more than 20 years since he first left Mexico City to work in the farm fields of Michigan.

A few last-minute questions in hand, Alvarado, 38, arrives early at the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center in Urbana, as he has so many other mornings. The employees here are like family. They've helped his children become legal residents, nursed his wife through chemotherapy when his 6-year-old triplets were babies, made his quest to become a citizen possible.

He waits patiently in his blue Astrovan on this glorious spring morning until the center opens. First in line, he asks: What do I need to bring to the naturalization ceremony? How do I get there? What time should I arrive?

Though he understands English, Alvarado speaks in his native language. The center's interpreters answer in a mix of English and Spanish.

The ceremony is at the Carle Forum, and check-in begins at 1 p.m., they tell him. Be there 10 minutes early. Bring your naturalization form and your green card. And your wife, they add with a smile.

She can't make it, he says. Reyna Olea de Alvarado has to be home when the children get out of school. He has invited his mother instead.

"Tell her to try," urges Deborah Hlavna, the center's co-director.

He will, after all, soon become the first American citizen in his family.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hispanics: Business ownership key to American dream

As soon as immigrants learn the language of the neighborhood, they can successfully become business owners and not just workers in those businesses. And the ones who don't want to own businessses can earn more as bilingual employees. DP

HISPANIC SERIES: Untapped employee market for companies in rising Hispanic demographic

BY JERRY DAVICH : It can't be denied -- Hispanics and hard work go together like American business and cheap labor.

This partly explains why the rate of Hispanics who start their own businesses far outpaces the national average by a 3-1 ratio.

Many Hispanics see being their own boss as the only way to true prosperity here.

In 2002, there were 1.6 million Hispanic-owned establishments, a 31 percent jump from 1997. Today there are an estimated 2 million establishments with more opening each month.

Of those Hispanic-owned businesses, nearly half are owned by people of Mexican descent, and the majority are mom-and-pop operators, like Noel Berrum, owner of El Super Taco restaurant in Hobart.

Like most local Hispanic business owners born in Mexico, he came to the Chicago region to work for someone else before running his own place.

While learning the language, culture and business ropes, he earned a living here, regularly sending money back to his wife, Maria, and his family.

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Homebuilders say immigrants' work is vital

I imagine that many of the people who say we should deport all these illegal workers are enjoying being able to buy a house at a good price. DP

Houses wouldn't be built on time or on budget without the help of foreign-born workers, many of whom are here illegally

By Lew Sichelman, Special to The Chronicle Washington -- Whatever your opinion regarding immigrants who have entered the United States illegally, realize that if you are in the market for a new house, it's likely to take longer to build -- and cost more to buy -- if they are forced to leave the country.

The National Association of Home Builders estimates that 20 percent of the construction workforce -- about 2.4 million people -- is foreign-born. While it's impossible to know how many are undocumented, some estimates put the number at 50 percent or more.

Whatever the true count, builders across the country say illegal immigrants play an important role in a construction labor market that is already stretched thin.

Craig Havenner of the Christopher Cos., a builder in Virginia, has no idea how many of the carpenters, brick masons, roofers and other craftsmen who work for the subcontractors he hires are here illegally. Nor does Michael Fink of the Leewood Real Estate Group in Trenton, N.J.

But both builders say they'd be hard-pressed to deliver their products on time or at the same price if "illegals" were ordered to leave the country, as some federal legislators have demanded.

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Immigrants help stabilize population in Upper Midwest

Immigrants are needed in this country, here is one community that is saying it. DP

Associated Press FARGO, N.D. - Foreign-born immigrants arrived in North Dakota and Minnesota at a faster pace than the national average in the past decade, helping to stabilize the population in the Upper Midwest, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

"From our standpoint, you can't have enough immigrants," said Susan Geib, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office.

"We need their expertise and we need the population," she said.

Immigrants are coming to North Dakota and Minnesota for new jobs and schooling. In the case of refugees, immigrants are establishing new lives.

"These international folks represent an important human capital base for our area," said Richard Rathge, North Dakota's demographer.

Most immigrants in North Dakota come from Bosnia, Sudan, Germany, India, Canada and Vietnam.

North Dakota and Minnesota rely on immigrants for population - key in determining tax aid formulas for local governments and schools. Immigrants also supplement the pool of workers for employers struggling to find willing, able or qualified people.

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Don't ignore immigrants who gave their all

Many of the people in our military are not U.S. citizens or even here legally. Many of them are dying in Iraq. DP

By TIM CHAVEZ Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta came to America to go to high school. He didn't get his green card for legal status until the day before he joined the Marines.

Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez at 16 fled the violence and poverty of Guatemala for the security and promise in this nation.

Cpl. Jose Garibay followed his parents from Mexico for a better life.

Monday, these three Marines — including Peralta who cradled a grenade to his body to save five of his comrades caught in a Fallujah insurgent safe house — will be honored along with all this nation's war dead.

And they will hold a special place in hearts and minds because they died for the United States of America without the distinction of being citizens of this nation. They were provided their citizenship posthumously.

One does not have to be a U.S. citizen to fight for this nation. Despite the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War, San Antonio military recruitment offices still have the largest increases in young people signing up to serve.

How many Americans born in this nation would step forward now to serve?

Most won't even vote.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

East meets Southwest

Another remarkable story about some immigrants who came here legally and are making a new life. DP

Asian immigrants come for business, better life

By SARA INÉS CALDERÓN, The Brownsville Herald

The Brownsville Herald: The hardest thing about migrating to the United States might be trying to fit what you can of your old life into a new one.

Chinmei Teng, who immigrated to this country, left Taiwan 10 years ago and has lived in Brownsville for 2½ years.

Life has been a constant challenge since she left home, she said — from learning the language and cus-toms of her adopted country to trying to weave her Taiwanese heritage into the new American family’s culture.

“I just try,” Teng said, sitting in her restaurant, the Lotus Flower in downtown Brownsville.

“I try to find a balance between the West and the East, the different cultures. It’s hard, it’s really hard.”

Simple, everyday things are more complicated here, Teng said.

Helping her two children with their math homework, for example, is difficult and frustrating.

In Taiwan, she could help them but now it’s hard to even understand the words describing the numbers.

“I try to find a balance,” Teng said.

She speaks four languages — Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese and English — and is adding a fifth.

“That’s amazing, I’m still learning English but now I have to learn Spanish.”

The Asian community here is small but growing.

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Past suffering fuels patriotic zeal

This story tells the story of Ukrainian immigrants, who started going to the Rochester area in the early 1900s and are still immigrating there. 31 of the 41 ESL students in the school are Ukrainain. These people have added to the community and are proud Americans now. DP

Fleeing persecution, they came to U.S. with a hunger for a fresh start, a zest for hard work

Marketta Gregory, Staff writer

Democrat & Chronicle: They all have stories to tell — of being arrested for supporting democratic ideas, of hiding to read the Bible and worship God, of family decisions to leave the rich black soil of their native country.

But for the thousands of Ukrainians who have settled in the Rochester area, the stories don't end in their beloved and beleaguered homeland. In their suitcases they brought the intricate needlework that graced their wedding dresses, and in their hearts they brought the determination of a people hungry for freedom and a fresh start.

They came here in the early 1900s and again in the 1930s for jobs and better wages. Then family member started following family member. Another wave of immigrants came during World War II as Ukraine was battered by both Nazis and Soviets. Yet another wave in the late 1980s and early '90s carried Pentecostals who felt they had to choose between communism and God. Ukrainian Jews from the former Soviet Union arrived in the early '90s as well, seeking more opportunities.

The more than 11,000 local Ukrainians have established their own credit union, set up Saturday schools to teach their language and culture, donated to cancer research, helped the children of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and built homes and businesses and churches.

"I think we're much more patriotic than some people who were born here because they don't know the difference," said Stephany Wowkowych, whose parents were forced to go to Germany and work for the Nazis during World War II. Few children were allowed to go with the adults, so Wowkowych's older sister, Kateryna, stayed behind in Krychovychi, Ukraine. She was 13.

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