Saturday, March 31, 2007

Naturalization Up Among Immigrants

More than half of the legal immigrants in this country are now citizens. People are recognizing how important it is to become a citizen with voting rights. DP

By Darryl Fears, Washington Post Staff Writer The number of naturalized citizens in the United States grew to nearly 13 million between 1995 and 2005, a historic increase that reflects the nation's changing ethnic makeup and could increase the power of immigrants to affect public policy at the ballot box, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

More than half of the nation's legal immigrants are now naturalized citizens, "the highest level in a quarter century and a 15 percent increase since 1990," when the proportion of naturalized immigrants reached historic lows, the study said. Since 1995, the average number of yearly naturalizations has surpassed 650,000, compared with 150,000 in 1970.

"We've seen dramatic changes in countries across the board," said Jeffrey Passel, the Pew Hispanic Center's senior research associate. "Today's immigrants are interested in becoming U.S. citizens," he said.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Land of the free class, home of the studious

These people are studying to pass the citizenship test. All have different stories but one common goal. DP

By Rona Marech, Sun reporter SILVER SPRING // What is the national anthem of the United States? the teacher asked. A chorus of voices responded in unison, "The Star-Spangled Banner!" Then an echo rolled through the classroom, "spangled banner ... spangled banner ... spangled banner," as immigrants, whose native tongues range from Vietnamese to Spanish, practiced saying the words.

The questions kept coming: "Who are your senators? What is the introduction to the Constitution called?" Each time, the answers bounced back quickly, "Mikulski ... Mikulski ... preamble ... preamble."

They have their green cards. They have the will. But these students have one last hurdle to cross before they reach their goal of becoming Americans: They must pass the citizenship test.

They have to prove they can read, write and speak English, show they have basic knowledge of U.S. government and history, and demonstrate what the government describes as an attachment to the Constitution and good moral character.
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Legal immigrants seek American citizenship in surging numbers

Proposed fee increases and the desire to be able to vote is convincing more immigrants to become citizens. DP

By Daniel B. Wood | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor LOS ANGELES - Thirty years ago Andrea Sbardellati left Argentina for a 15-day US visit and never returned home. Now the head of her own Los Angeles-based company, she has three children and wants to become more politically active in her adopted country.

"The same kind of political abuse that used to go on in Argentina I am now seeing in the US," says Ms. Sbardellati, sitting in an office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, where she is filling out an application to become a US citizen. "I'm applying to become a citizen because I want to vote, to make a difference, to have a voice in democracy."

Just down the hall from where Sbardellati is filling out the requisite paperwork, a room of telephone operators logs inquiries from thousands like her. More than anytime in 10 years, say NALEO officials, the calls and applications are flooding in.

Helped by the push of a coalition of 200 organizations here in southern California – including twice-daily pleas from the leading Latino TV station and full-page ads in La Opinion, the leading Spanish-language newspaper – a 150 percent increase in applications has been tallied: 7,334 in January 2006 compared to 18,024 in January 2007. Nationwide, the increase is 79 percent, from 53,390 to 95,622, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

"The battle cry is 'Ya Es Hora. Ciudadania!' (It's time. Citizenship!)," says Marcelo Gaete, senior programs director for NALEO, which helps applicants with the process. "The response has been so strong that at times we have a hard time keeping up."
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

ABCs of Change For Latino Children

A program to help Latino children and their parents learn the value of reading, even before they start kindergarten. DP

Advocates Push Early Education Programs To Help Community Bridge Achievement Gap

By Maria Glod, Washington Post Staff Writer The children and parents gathered for story time one recent Saturday morning in the District heard "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" not once but twice. "In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf," the Eric Carle classic began in the first rendition.

"Bajo la luz de la luna, encima de una hoja, habia un huevecillo," it began in the second.

Afterward, children drew caterpillars and butterflies and ate cupcakes. Everyone left with a copy of the book. Among the crowd at the CentroNia family support center were Angie Lemus, 5, and her mother, Sandra Gomez, 19.

"When I was little, no one read books to me," said Gomez, a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants. "My mother didn't have any kind of education at all, so it was hard for her to read a book even in Spanish." But Gomez has a different routine with Angie. "Every night we read a book," she said. "Now it's normal."
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Immigrants called a 'necessity'

We need immigrants. Our workforce is not growing enough naturally to fill the need because of low birthrate and aging workers. DP

David Hendricks, Express-News business writer U.S. businesses need more immigrant workers because the native work force is growing too slowly to fill all the jobs, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in San Antonio on Thursday.

The U.S. work force in the 25-to-54 age range is growing at a rate of only 0.3 percent a year. That is not enough, Gutierrez said, to sustain the 3 percent annual economic growth rate that is considered healthy.

Immigration, he said, "is an economic necessity."

The industries most needing immigrant workers are construction, agriculture, hospitality and restaurants, he said during visits Thursday with the Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, the Express-News editorial board and Associated General Contractors of America.

Gutierrez, a former cereal executive, said his department is in daily negotiations with members of Congress to craft a comprehensive reform bill sought by President Bush.

One section of the bill would require that immigrants be given a worker authorization card with biometric information so employers could easily verify their eligibility, Gutierrez said.

Bush also is seeking a middle-ground solution between deporting the estimated 12 million undocumented workers already in the United States and granting them amnesty.
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Real-life civics makes activists of immigrants

These immigrants are learning how important and powerful it is to become a citizen and vote for what they want changed in their community. DP

By Susan Ferriss, McClatchy Newspapers WILLIAMS, Calif. - On a recent balmy afternoon, a group of women at a park in this small northern California town celebrated the imminent birth of a baby with tamales and gallons of horchata, a Mexican cinnamon punch made with rice.

Talk in Spanish turned to the flavor of the punch - which had been prepared with bottled water - and then to the flavor of the water that flows in people's homes here, which the women described as foul sometimes as rotten eggs.

Griselda Gonzalez, a local hotel maid, suggested that if immigrants such as themselves want to do something about the water, there's something they must consider: Those who can, must become U.S. citizens and use their vote.

"If those of us who can become citizens don't do it, we have only ourselves to blame for putting ourselves on the sidelines," said Gonzalez, 49, who is proud to have ascended from undocumented farmworker to homeowner, mother of a U.S. Navy veteran and, as of 2005, American citizen.
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Our View: Paying for immigrants’ checkups could lower emergency costs

If states would pay for basic preventitive care, emergencies would be averted and money saved. Leaving people without any health care until they are extremely ill is never a good idea. This goes for anyone, not just immigrants. DP

By Editorial staff Fears that illegal immigrants are fraudulently receiving Medicaid health benefits have led to a federal crackdown on eligibility standards. But in North Carolina, those policies are proving penny-wise and pound- foolish.

That’s the gist of a study published in the March 15 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Between 2001 and 2004, North Carolina’s Medicaid program spent less than one percent of its annual budget on care for recent immigrants.

North Carolina, like many states, observes a federal law that excludes illegal immigrants and legal immigrants who have been in the United States fewer than five years from Medicaid, a state and federal program that provides health-care coverage to the poor and disabled. Another law lets Medicaid pay for services to those same immigrants if they’re in dire straits. Emergency Medicaid pays for childbirth and problems related to pregnancy, traumatic injuries and complications from chronic illness.

The sum of the two laws is a lot of money wasted. Illegal immigrants are not using Medicaid for basic checkups and pregnancy care and, as a result, end up needing more serious and expensive procedures later.

Women and children received the bulk of the emergency care. More than 48,000 individuals, including 3,883 children, received Emergency Medicaid during the four-year study period. More than 80 percent of spending was on childbirth and childbirth-related complications.

It’s important to emphasize that, from a medical perspective, there is no question that access to prenatal care for illegal immigrants is important. If someone is pregnant, she needs early and ongoing care.

The real issue is whether or not taxpayers should be paying for prenatal-care services and other services for illegal immigrants who continue to flood into the state. If the population continues to grow unchecked, residents will strain to pay for those services.

The study clearly shows that, at least in the case of pregnant women, paying for basic services is smart because it saves money. Taxpayers save about $3 for each $1 spent on prenatal care.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to spend money wisely on medical services for illegal immigrants. If they are smart they will spend it at the right end of care.

Mandarin programs see swell in number of U.S. students

A billion people in the world speak Mandarin and now some US students are adding to that number. DP

By Shirley Dang, MEDIANEWS STAFF An increasing number of U.S. students are taking Mandarin classes in public and private schools as China gains prominence as a global power.

The number of students learning Mandarin in traditional U.S. schools swelled from an estimated 5,000 to 50,000 between 2000 and 2005, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. In addition, approximately 160,000 children take classes at heritage schools that teach Chinese language and culture after school or on weekends.

A number of states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut have created initiatives to boost Chinese instruction. Last year, the state of Kansas launched a drive to make Chinese one of the three most-offered languages in Kansas public schools by 2016.

"It's really quite a phenomenon," said Michael Levine, executive director of education for Asia Society, a nonprofit that promotes global con- nections to Asian countries.

This weekend in San Francisco, the Institute for the Teaching of Chinese Language and Culture kicks off its first national conference for K-12 Chinese education. These programs are proliferating rapidly as the United States says "ni hao" (hello) to Mandarin, the tongue of a billion people, the official language of mainland China and the most widely spoken language in the world.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The great divide

More reactions to some of the proposed "English as official language" laws. DP

Immigrants in Carpentersville feel sting of ‘English-only’ proposal

BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Staff Reporter Doraceli Ortega had nothing but hope for her young family when she and her husband bought their first home in Carpentersville two years ago. They and their two children had moved from Wauconda to be closer to Filyalberto's factory job and to settle in a Hispanic community.

Now, like many other Hispanics living in far northwest suburban Carpentersville, a town of about 35,000, Ortega is scared.

She finds herself living in a place where she says she and others in the Hispanic community, which has grown from 16 percent to 40 percent of the population in the last 15 years, might one day be targeted by village ordinances that some say seek to curb the influx of illegal immigrants.

The ordinances are thought to be the first of their kind to be introduced in Illinois.

"We're all a little alarmed," Ortega, 24, said in Spanish. "Already, I have a neighbor who tells us to go back to Mexico. I feel scared just to say 'hi' to people."
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Anti-Defamation League will focus on immigrants BOSTON The Anti-Defamation League of New England says it will turn some of its efforts toward fighting anti-immigrant sentiment.

The 60-year-old organization is known mostly for its focus on combating anti-Semitism.

But regional leaders say bigotry against immigrants is on the rise.

The group says it will develop new programs to provide aid in immigrant communities, monitor hate activity and lobby state and local officials for better assistance.

To mark the change, the group will host a Passover dinner with an immigrant theme and traditional readings of the Exodus story, as well as works by Mexican labor activist Cesar Chavez.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

Muslim country musician turns stereotypes upside down

An excellent example of how people can keep some of their own faith and culture and still be Americans. DP

Kareem Salama is among those reconciling their faith with American culture.

By EILEEN FLYNN, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF It was the twang that threw me. I'm talking serious cowboy voice. The kind that can only come from out on the range. The kind that still startles my New England ears.

"Miss Fleeeeynn?" he said. "This is Kareem Salama. I understand you're trying to reach me."

OK, hold it. I happened to have this man's Web site up for a story I was researching. And I knew that Salama was a Muslim, a law student, and a country and western singer. And, of course, I had read his biography on his site, where he detailed his multicultural upbringing. His parents, who now live in Richmond, southwest of Houston, took him to Native American powwows and the county fairs and rodeos and made trips to Branson, Mo., and Opryland in Nashville, Tenn.

As I listened to him, I couldn't reconcile the twang with the chiseled Egyptian face on the Web site. Most of the Muslims I know have foreign accents. But why should I be so jolted by a thoroughly American Muslim?

Or should I say: A Muslim who, at least on the surface, seems to fit another American stereotype? More on that later.
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Latino forum spawns ideas for taking action

Every city should do this, get the groups together and brainstorm and come up with some good ideas to solve the problem. Instead of just complaining. DP

By Amanda H. Miller Community members working on the best way to address Latino growth in Teton County have identified priorities such as getting facts straight, breaking down language barriers and engaging in cross-cultural activities.

About 75 people have been meeting in five small groups for the last six weeks to develop the best plans for dealing with the “challenges and opportunities” presented by a growing Latino population. They presented their conclusions at a forum Tuesday night.

“We tried to develop concrete actions that are really implementable,” said Jen Daniels, a landscape architect and meeting facilitator for the Center for Resolution. “We tried to stay focused on things we know we can do in this community.”

The Jackson Town Council sponsored the discussion.

“There’s no time like the present to start a dialogue in earnest,” Mayor Mark Barron said. “And to recognize that our community is changing.”
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Immigrants Face Severe English Class Shortages

Tens of thousands of immigrants are on waiting lists to get into English classes. Another indication of how important they feel learning English is for their future. DP

By Adam Phillips, New York Today, more immigrants are coming to America than ever before. In order for these new arrivals to take full advantage of economic and cultural opportunities in the United States, competence in spoken and written English is almost essential. But recent studies indicate that the demand for English language training exceeds the supply. That's limiting many newcomers' ability to enter the American cultural and economic mainstream.

"English is really essential," says Phyllis Berman, the founder and director of the Riverside Language Program in New York City. "If immigrants don't learn English, they are not going to make a living."

They are also going to be distanced from their children Berman says, "as their kids begin to function in this country and in this language." Simply put, she says, learning English "is the key for them, and for the life they want."

That is why immigration experts are troubled by the serious shortage of English classes throughout the United States right now, even as immigration numbers, and the American economy are growing. According to a study by the Center for an Urban Future, a non-profit group that researches workforce and economic development issues in New York State, only five percent of immigrants with limited English skills are in a formal course to improve them. And across the nation, tens of thousands are on waiting lists to get into an English class.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't believe myths about immigrants

By Maura I. Toro-Morn, director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, College of Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University The time has come to put to rest the damaging anti-immigrant myths voiced in recent letters to the editor.

Myth 1: ``Illegal aliens take jobs from American workers.''

Economist Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis, reports that in California - the state with the largest proportion of immigrants - there is no evidence that the inflow of immigrants has worsened employment opportunities for native workers with the same education and experience. Why? Partly because immigrants do not compete with native workers for the same jobs.

Myth 2: ``Illegal immigrants do not pay taxes.''

The National Immigration Forum has estimated that in any given year U.S. immigrants pay $90 billion to $140 billion in federal, state and local taxes. All immigrants, even those who are undocumented, pay sales taxes as consumers.

Myth 3: ``Illegal immigrants do not assimilate.''

American culture today is a pastiche of practices, foods and traditions from other parts of the world. If assimilation is defined as leaving one's culture and identity behind, then no immigrant group that has set foot in this country has completely assimilated.

However, if assimilation is defined as meaningful incorporation in our communities - by working, voting and raising our families - then immigrants have clearly assimilated in the U.S. and in Bloomington-Normal.

I encourage Pantagraph readers to take a look at our community and see that Latinos and other immigrants are contributing to American society in the most meaningful way possible, by raising families, paying taxes and building community with others.

In the true spirit of American history, give recent immigrants and their children - many of whom are American citizens by birth - a chance to begin the journey toward meaningful incorporation by throwing away old stereotypes and prejudices that are counterproductive and damaging to us all!

Nation Of Immigrants: A tall order ahead

Second in a series they are running now. DP

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD Saying that we need comprehensive immigration reform is like saying that, gosh, we really need to do something about that war. Duh.

The questions are, what can get done and how much headway will we make on it this year? A bipartisan bill passed by the Senate last year didn't make it past the Republicans in the House of Representatives. They even opposed President Bush's guest-worker program.

Despite the loud voices of hard-line immigration opponents such as Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, there's fresh hope this year that maybe political differences can be set aside in order to deal with the very real issues of undocumented workers, meeting the labor needs of agricultural businesses, ineffective and overburdened border security and the very limited number of H-1B visas, allowing companies in the U.S. to recruit skilled foreign employees. And how about creating a process for making the illegal immigrants with solid records citizens? That's the reason the measure choked last year, and chances are we'll still be stuck with that ridiculous 700-mile fence the president approved last year. By the way, one of the companies that built border fences, Golden State Fence Co., pleaded guilty in 2006 to knowingly hiring illegal workers from 1999 to 2005.

We hope that Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy will produce an immigration reform bill that will satisfy Democrats, Republicans, businesses, immigrant groups and more. It's a tall order, we know.

But it should have been done years ago.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

American Indians Say English Only Policy Diminishes Tribal Languages

Another view about the English only movement. Even the name of the state of Oklahoma is not English, would it have to be changed? DP OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ As he visits public schools and colleges where his native Choctaw Indian language is taught, Terry Ragan is as likely to greet people with ``Halito! Chim achukma?'' as he is with its English equivalent: ``Good morning! How are you?''

The state's very name is a Choctaw word meaning land of the red people, and many of Oklahoma's 37 federally recognized tribes are fighting to save native tongues from extinction years after the end of organized efforts to stamp out their languages and cultures.

That's why English-only legislation pending in the Oklahoma Legislature and directed primarily at Hispanic immigrants has been so distasteful to American Indian leaders in this, Oklahoma's centennial year.

The bill points up divisions that continue to exist more than a century after Indians were force-marched to the state and given land, only to see it taken away by settlers _ an event re-enacted every year by schoolchildren across the state.

``If you go to English only, what are we going to call the state of Oklahoma?'' said Ragan, a former school superintendent and director of the Choctaw Nation's language program. ``Even town names in the state will have to be named differently.

``With that type of thinking, we're going to have to change a whole lot of things.''
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Nation Of Immigrants: System is broken

A very interesting opinion piece. And a few of the comments posted were in agreement, that's a good sign too. DP

By SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD We are not sure how future historians will view this period of immigration to this country of immigrants. But we do know things have to change, in many ways.

Today's broken system needs to be fixed in the most comprehensive of ways. In the current atmosphere, of course, that will be attacked as code for wholesale acceptance of millions of illegal entrants. But we think comprehensive reform goes far beyond clearer, more humane rules to, on the one hand, restoring the rule of law and, on the opposite side, to generously fostering economic development in the rest of the Americas and beyond.

Reform begins with confidence in our future, our values and ourselves. We can have predictability without cruelty. We can help businesses find workers without cheating Americans. We can regulate immigration without walling ourselves in.

Immigration reform begins with having enough legal options, including for those here already, to make criminal conduct less attractive. Family reunification must be expedited, not left to a distant dream. There have to be options for both permanent and temporary entry for workers to fill jobs Americans don't want or can't do. At the same time, we have to be working on effective economic development abroad, abandoning ideas of raiding other nations for nurses and providing education so all Americans have real opportunities at home.

We can revive our ideals of fair, compassionate and intelligent welcome. But it won't be easy.

First in a series of editorials on immigration reform. Monday: The political challenges.

In today's complex world, it pays to learn one's mother tongue

Another citizen who regrets that his parents and grandparents didn't teach him their language when he was young. DP

By Charles Paolino A reader points out that the Italian term for garlic is aglio, not alia, as I wrote in this space last week. My bad.

I've seen spaghetti aglio e olio on enough menus that I should know how to spell it.

The combination gli occurs frequently in Italian. The g is silent — or nearly so. I remember my Italian professor at Seton Hall explaining the pronunciation of figlia, which is the Italian term for daughter, by saying that one starts to pronounce the g, but doesn't follow through, so there is only a slight contraction of the throat before the l.

Let's just say the g is silent, and leave it at that. Aglio e olio is difficult enough to pronounce as it is.

When my grandparents used that phrase, they ran it together as though it were one word. I was in my late teens before I knew what they were saying — though I sure knew what they meant by it, and was in heaven whenever it was on the dinner table.

Unfortunately for me, they never attempted to teach me things like that.

People today who are annoyed by immigrants who stick to their native tongues would have liked my grandparents. They spoke to each other in Italian, but they used English most of the time, and occasionally pointed out that they were "Americans now."

Fair enough. But it didn't occur to my grandparents — or to me, for that matter — that they would have done me a favor by teaching me a second language while I was young.
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Getting a head start

By DOMINIKA MASLIKOWSKI/The Daily News BULLHEAD CITY - A new basic English class is being offered at the pre-school Head Start, and students are saying they like its pace and more relaxed atmosphere.

Oscar Rivera, of Guadalajara, Mexico, wants to learn English for his child. He wants to understand what the child wants from the store when they're out shopping. His wife, Maria, wants to communicate without relying on a translator.

Other immigrants want to learn English to get ahead at work, or better their life in general, but they sometimes face stumbling blocks and give up before they learn the basics.

Lourdes Perez, also of Guadalajara, has taken several English classes before, but she said they moved too fast and students who didn't understand were left behind. Another Spanish-speaker said others made fun of her for not speaking properly, but now she wants to learn and doesn't care about being ridiculed.

The students said the new English class at Head Start lets them learn at their own pace, with less pressure. The class - taught by Mohave Shrine Club volunteer Tom Clark - meets once a week for an hour, and is open to anyone with preference given to parents of Head Start students, their relatives and friends.

Maria Rivera said she thought Clark was patient and calmer than most instructors. She said she feels comfortable with someone who's donating his time because it shows he really wants to teach, and isn't just there for a paycheck.

During their first lesson on Tuesday students were told it was okay to make mistakes, and that speaking English will get easier if they practice every day.

“It doesn't matter if you make a mistake. Just practice and relax. After 13 weeks you will be very comfortable talking to someone in English,” Clark said. “You may always say como se dice. It's okay to ask, ‘what is that word?'”

A literacy group discovers commonalities

We need groups like this in every city in this country. DP

A literacy group finds after breaking down the language barrier for 25 years that 'people aren't that different'

By Cheryl Sherry, Post-Crescent staff writer Moving to the United States from Palestine in 1991, Raja Khatib said her father's words never rang truer.

"He said, 'You need to finish your school. That is what will help you in your life,'" said the 40-year-old Appleton woman who was required to take Arabic, Hebrew and English in school but put little effort into studying. These days, aside from family, the most important thing in the mother of four's life is education.

"I grab every opportunity I can to improve myself, to improve my English and my skills," said Khatib, who became a U.S. citizen in 1999 and earned her high school equivalency diploma and certified nursing assistant certification through Fox Valley Technical College. She is working toward certification as a technical colleague at her new workplace, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Appleton.

Khatib will be one of 16 students celebrating accomplishments and telling their stories at Literacy Education Services Inc.'s annual awards program at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Appleton, where it has met for the last 25 years. Khatib has used the program since 1993.

"She gets around the English language pretty good now," said Fran Bubolz, 77. Bubolz is a retired schoolteacher and a charter volunteer of Literacy Education Services Inc., which works in partnership with the Fox Valley Literacy Coalition and the Fox Valley Outreach Literacy Council. The groups jointly serve 400 students.
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Friday, March 09, 2007

Irish Immigrants Visit Congress to Ask for Rights

If and when we ever get immigration reform, it won't just be Hispanics who are helped. DP

by Jennifer Ludden, All Things Considered (NPR Radio) Several thousand Irish immigrants fan out across Capitol Hill, shaking up the stereotype of the illegal immigrant and lobbying for legalization. The demonstrators say they've come to America for opportunity and adventure — the same reasons as their ancestors. The difference, they say, lies in the current system.

After traveling from across the country for Wednesday's rally, the advocates received green and white T-shirts inscribed with the request "Legalize the Irish," along with small American flags.

Angela Kelley, of the National Immigration Forum, says the small group of Irish undocumented does point to a big issue: Fixing the immigration system isn't just about securing the border.

"Forty percent of the undocumented in this country came in legally," Kelly says. "They came in with visas, as students, as tourists, as businessmen. And they overstayed those visas."

Supporters say that's why a sweeping immigration overhaul is needed. A Senate proposal is expected soon, sponsored by John McCain and Edward Kennedy — perhaps the most famous great-great-grandson of Irish immigrants.

Arrests of illegal immigrants leaves their kids stranded at school and daycares

I can't imagine the fear these children felt when their parents never showed up to get them or of the parents knowing their children were stranded. DP NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- Arrests resulting from a raid on a leather goods maker suspected of hiring illegal immigrants left dozens of young children stranded at schools and with baby sitters after their parents were rounded up.

About 100 children were stuck with baby sitters, caretakers and others, said Corinn Williams, director of the Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts.
Immigration officials said 327 of the 500 employees of Michael Bianco Inc., mostly women, were detained Tuesday by immigration officials for possible deportation as illegal aliens.

Company owner Francesco Insolia, 50, and three top managers were arrested. A fifth person was arrested on charges of helping workers obtain fake identification.
Authorities released 45 detainees who were sole caregivers to children. No more releases were planned, said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Eight pregnant women were also released for humanitarian reasons.

Those still in custody were given the option of letting their children stay with a guardian or putting them in state care, Raimondi said.
Investigators said the workers toiled in dingy conditions and faced onerous fines, such as a $20 charge for talking while working and spending more than two minutes in the bathroom.

"They were given no options. It's either here, or the risk of no income at all. Clearly, they were exploited because of the fact they were here illegally," U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said

Learning the language of the workplace

These classes are teaching employees some of the words they need to work safely and even get better jobs. DP

West-metro school districts and others across the state have reached out to local employers with on-site English classes for workers limited by communication barriers.

By Patrice Relerford When Mayo Hart held her first English class at the GE Water filter assembly plant in Minnetonka, the first word supervisors wanted her to teach was "rotate."

Employees are expected to rotate stations regularly to avoid neck or wrist problems caused by repetitive motion. But they were not always doing so, Hart said.

"They thought it was bad or that they were giving up" if they moved from one post to another, she said. "They didn't understand why the supervisors wanted them to switch stations."

The workers' English skills were playing a role in such misunderstandings, as well as in failure to report work hazards, said Hart, an adult-education teacher for Minnetonka schools.
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Irish in America - the forgotten immigrants With St. Patty's Day fast approaching, many people in the United States will proudly wear their Irish heritage as a badge of honor ... except for the estimated 50,000 Irish nationals currently living in the country illegally.

Before Ireland's current status as the economic envy of Europe, many Irish nationals left their homeland for America, the traditional destination for migrants since the mid-19th Century when the potato famine decimated the population.

However, among those granted U.S. citizenship in 2005, only 0.002 percent were Irish ... an enormous drop from its past, considering that more than 34 million Americans can trace their ancestry to the Emerald Isle.

As Ireland continues its upward economic climb, many Irish immigrants (legal or not) are returning to their homeland. While the current prosperity and healthy job market in Ireland surely play a part, the U.S. chill towards immigration is not helping.

However, some Irish immigrants want to stay and are doing something about it. There are migrant coalitions which include Irish interests intent on getting more visas issued to fill job shortages. They hope that their similar ancestry will give them an advantage in their cause - and they may be right.

Senator John McCain, despite his belief in stronger boarders and immigration enforcement, showed up at a rally of Irish immigrants in Washington a year ago to show his support. Also attending was Hillary Clinton, who rebuked the House for passing a controversial bill by telling them not to "turn your backs on what made this country great." Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, recently sent a representative with a letter of support to an Irish event in her home district.

Whether such support will have any affect on allowing undocumented immigrants a path to legal residence is still up in the air.
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Natakalum Al-Arabi (We speak Arabic)

Young adults are learning their parents' language, a very difficult one too. DP

By Lauren FitzPatrick, Staff writer "There's so many dots," says Deina Musa, groaning, as her friends echo, "the dots," outside their Arabic classroom at Saint Xavier one Friday morning.

"The dots and the lines pretty much tell you what the letter is -- how you say it," explains Musa, a 21-year-old from Oak Lawn, who's finally learning to read and write the language she's grown up speaking with her Jordanian parents.

As if the Arabic script didn't look complicated enough, what with its right-to-left direction, its tiny dots are crucial, she's quickly learned.

Their number and placement changes a letter from a "b" to an "n," a "t" to a "th," an "s" to an "sh." Worst of all are the multiple "s," "d" and "t" sounds.

But a bunch of dots won't stop her or 22 other young 20-somethings from waking up early three days a week to pack into a Saint Xavier classroom where they are learning to read, write, understand and speak Arabic.

"It's my language; it's my culture," Musa said. "I think everybody should know how to read and write in their own ethnicity and culture."

This growing demand among proud immigrant children, future politicians and teachers is fueling the study of Arabic nationwide, and now the Southland has added its own options to the mix. Saint Xavier University in Mount Greenwood heard the call and kicked off its first year of Arabic language instruction, now in its second semester.
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New Haven Welcomes a Booming Population of Immigrants, Legal or Not

New Haven is doing what large cities have been doing, but smaller ones have refused to do. Help their immigrant residents, whether they are legal or not. They are tax paying neighbors and when they live safely, everyone benefits. DP

By JENNIFER MEDINA NEW HAVEN, March 1 — The people have been arriving here for years from Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica and Ecuador, some staying just a few months, but more settling in for years.

The way Mayor John DeStefano saw it, there were basically two choices: City officials could look the other way, as if the change were not happening, or they could embrace the transformation, doing whatever was possible to welcome the newcomers.

For now, this city is marching steadily toward becoming a safe haven for immigrants — whether they are in the country legally or not.

The Police Department has adopted a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding citizenship status. City Hall is sponsoring workshops to help illegal immigrants file federal income taxes. And this summer, New Haven plans to allow illegal immigrants to apply for municipal identification cards, in what immigration advocates describe as the first program of its type in the nation.

City officials and immigrant-rights advocates hope these and other initiatives will make immigrants feel more comfortable dealing with life’s bureaucratic necessities — and make them less wary of the police. Officials say the decisions are more pragmatic than ideological, even in this overwhelmingly liberal city of 125,000, where advocates estimate that 3,000 to 5,000 illegal immigrants live in Fair Haven, New Haven’s predominantly Latino neighborhood.
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When immigrants flee, crops rot

Most migrant workers decided not to look for work in Colorado so prison inmates are picking the crops. But no one is doing the work these workers were doing in landscaping, restaurants, car washes and other service businesses. DP

Immigrants heard Colorado's you're-not-welcome-here message loud and clear. Now the state needs its criminals to fill the workers' former farm jobs. Colorado is a success story of sorts for the camp that believes illegal immigrants are nothing more than criminals who ought to be barred at the border.

The state's tough laws -- which encourage local police to check papers and make sure no one without a fistful of proper documentation receives one penny's worth of social services or a driver's license -- actually worked. Immigrants, both illegal and documented (who don't want the hassle), have stayed away.

In fact, so few migrant workers showed up for last year's harvest that crops were left to rot in the field.

In order to avoid a repeat of that in the future, Colorado has hit on another idea: Use convicted criminals to pick crops.

Farmers can pay convicts piddling wages; the crops will get picked under armed guard; Colorado's farming industry will remain viable; the dregs of society will earn their three hots and a cot; and everyone will be happy.

Well, not quite everyone. Landscapers and the owners of restaurants, car washes and other service-oriented businesses can't fill their low-wage jobs either. But it isn't as if Colorado's ready for prisoners to bus tables or trim residential trees.
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Class outlines ins and outs of finance for immigrants

A good story about the difficulties immigrants face learning things we all take for granted, like banking. DP

By MEREDITH MANDELL, HERALD NEWS PATERSON -- Growing up in a rural province of Haiti, Lavie Metellus said the absence of banks forced him to stuff money under his mattress. Now, after 15 years of working hard in the U.S., Metellus wants to know how he can safeguard his money.

He, along with about dozen other ambitious Haitian immigrants, attended a free seminar Saturday on budget and banking organized by the Haitian Civic Organization of Paterson at the PNC Bank branch at 808 Market St.

In 1992, Metellus escaped Haiti's civil unrest in the wake of a political coup that overthrew the country's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He arrived by boat at Guantanamo Bay with nothing more than a small suitcase.

Mettelus, now a Paterson resident, said he hails from the city of Jeremie, where there wasn't a bank nearby to deposit and cash checks.

Metellus, 36, who works in the stock room at Pathmark, said since arriving in the U.S., he has saved $40,000. Now he wants to open a Haitian restaurant and is weighing his financial options.
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Berkshire County celebrates immigrants

This multicultural community is celebrating immigrants. The event had food, music and information for immigrants to live there. DP

By: Karen Honikel For Giobanny Tintin, this event is more than just celebrating culture. It even goes beyond recognizing social contributions made by local imigrants. For him, it was a place to learn about legislative issue they are facing and even meeting other immigrants in the area.

Tintin said, "To make different questions about the license, about the permit to work, about the green card, about citizenship, different things."

Of course, the evening wasn't all serious. Musical entertainment from authentic musical groups and lots of free food from local ethnic restaurants kept everyone smiling. Officials from the Berkshire Immigrant Center said events like this let immigrants know that there are people in the community there to answer questions they may be scared to ask.

"I think it's important to debunk the myth that you don't have to have done anything wrong to see an immigration attorney. We get professors from college that have questions for immigration attorneys," said Program Manager Brooke Mead.

Many local businesses also came out to the event to let immigrants know their doors are open, and they're looking to hire. Officials of Manos Unidas or "Helping Hands," a multicultural community empowerment group, says with Berkshire County losing population every year, it's vital to welcome immigrants.

Anaelisa Vanegas-Farrara said, "It's really important to have an influx of immigrants. Time and time again, I think of Schenectady, NY as an example, the Guyanisse population. Over and over again, immigrants revitalize communities."

And with 12,000 in Berkshire County, they almost define it

Saturday, March 03, 2007

House to reconsider bill to help kids of illegal immigrants

This is an interesting idea. It's a terrible waste to educate these children in our public schools and then, when they graduate not allow them to go to college or get a job. These kids will contribute so much to the community if they are given legal status. DP

By Jessie Mangaliman, Mercury News The Dream Act, a controversial proposal that would give the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools legal status, and eventually a path to citizenship, was re-introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving its many longtime supporters in the Bay Area and around the country hope for its passage in a new Democrat-controlled Congress.

Since 2002, at least four versions of the legislation have been introduced unsuccessfully in both chambers, each time with bi-partisan support. A similar bill is now in the works in the U.S. Senate, as part of a larger immigration reform bill that's expected in the coming weeks.

At a news conference Friday morning in San Francisco, parents of immigrant children and immigrant advocates praised the new bill not as an amnesty, but a chance ``to give a future to these children.''

``These youngsters don't belong in the streets,'' said Guadalupe Siordia-Ortiz, a member of a Bay Area immigrant parents group, Comite de Padres Unidos. ``We need these children in colleges because they can contribute back to society.''

Hector Vega, a 19-year-old freshman at Santa Clara University and an illegal immigrant who was brought as a child from Mexico by his mother, said he is ``happy and hopeful.''

``I'm really glad that efforts are still continuing for this measure,'' said Vega, who is in his second quarter at the university on a full scholarship. ``I feel more hopeful now because the Democrats are in control.''

Although previous proposals had bi-partisan support, Republican-led opposition in both the House and Senate kept the Dream Act languishing in committees.
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Her Country, ‘Tis Of Thee

This story tells what an immigrant has to do to become a citizen and how long it takes. Fortunately for this woman, she already knew English. DP

By Gloria Trotter Before too long, Ana Jett will be pledging allegiance to a flag that is truly hers.

And before too long, she will be able to vote for her own husband.

Jett, born Ana Gomes in Brazil almost 29 years ago, is boning up on American government these days in preparation for her citizenship test. If she successfully answers ten questions put to her on March 10 — her 29th birthday — at the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) office in Oklahoma City, she will be only weeks away from finally becoming an American citizen.

While legislators like her husband Shane, the District 27 member of the state House of Representatives, are more often wrestling with illegal immigrants, there are many like Ana who are quietly going through the ten-year process of becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. It’s not an easy road, even for the wife of a legislator.

Ana came to Oklahoma seven years ago after she and Shane became engaged, studying at St. Gregory’s University on a student visa. A year later, they married and she got a “green card,” allowing her to work in this country and to travel back home to Brazil. That first green card was only good for a year, but the next one was for five years — time that is just about up.

So even before Shane was elected to the Legislature, they began the process. “It took us longer because Shane did it himself instead of hiring a lawyer,” Ana said. “It costs about $4,000 with a lawyer and about $2,000 without. We were poor.”
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Wages get boost from immigrants

This certainly contradicts the common belief! DP

California study shows native-born workers got higher pay because of immigration's impact.

By Susan Ferris / Sacramento Bee In a surprising new study with national implications, a University of California economist found that immigration boosted the average wages of the native-born workers in California by at least 4 percent between 1990 and 2004.

The boost in wages due to immigrants' impact on the workplace is across the board, but higher for those with at least a high school diploma, according to the detailed analysis of 44 years of U.S. Census data on immigration and the workplace.

Native-born high school dropouts, who are assumed to have lost ground to immigrants in the workplace, have not suffered any wage losses as a group because of immigration, according to the study, which was produced by the University of California-Davis associate professor Giovanni Peri for the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.

"In fact, there has been a small uptick in their wages," Peri said of native-born high school dropouts, who account for about 8 percent of the state's native-born workers.

The gain in real wages for that group is less than 1 percent, Peri said, only 0.2 percent, "which is not much, but certainly not a negative."
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