Saturday, September 29, 2007

How Immigration Reform Will Help Everyone

by Donna Poisl

Everyone in this country will benefit if immigration reform is enacted and illegal immigrants are legalized. This even includes the people who insist they should all be deported. Almost every aspect of our lives will be affected positively.

We all agree that people should not be in this country illegally. We agree that we have to document the people entering and leaving our country. But the people who are against reform should consider that legalizing these people will benefit the whole country; the military, Social Security, our economy, education, even our national security.

The most immediate benefit would be to business. Our unemployment rate is below 4.5% -- and 10% of our work force is undocumented. With so few people out of work now, there would not be enough available workers to replace these people if they were suddenly deported. Our birthrate is low, our population is aging and the workforce is shrinking.

If farmers can't hire enough workers to plant or harvest, they would close, more of our food would be imported along with safety concerns and it would be more expensive. Hotels, motels, restaurants and landscape companies would close. Even with the slowdown in the construction industry, there wouldn't be enough workers left to build and repair houses. The factories that could outsource their work overseas would do that, rather than close, but many would have to close. This would lead to unemployment of the legal workers in those companies. Besides these work force problems, there would be a smaller tax base for those towns and the country.

A major benefit would be to Social Security. Fifty years ago, it took 20 workers to keep enough tax money flowing in to keep a retiree on Social Security. By 2030 there will only be two workers to cover each retiree. All the baby boomers will be in that group of retirees and more will be getting ready to retire. Add the fact that people are living much longer and it’s easy to see why we need more young workers now. We also need a steady supply of young workers coming into the system. The young immigrant workers who are already here may be the answer to the Social Security funding problems of the future.

Our military would benefit: there are almost 30,000 non citizens now on active duty in the U.S. military. The waiting period for citizenship for immigrants in the military has been decreased and active duty immigrants now can apply for citizenship in less time without having to return home before applying. Many immigrants place a high value on training and education available through the military. When citizenship requirements are eased, more immigrants will sign up, which will help enlistment numbers.

All immigrants realize they would have an easier time if they spoke and understood English, but since they are here illegally and could be deported at any moment, there is little incentive to learn. If the undocumented people were given legal status and one of the requirements for them to stay were to learn English, they would have a much better reason to study and learn.

Many benefits will occur if all legal residents are required to know our national language: the lines in the grocery store and bank move faster, neighbors can discuss problems, we'll have safer traffic when everyone can read the signs, women can report domestic violence, parents and teachers can discuss a child’s progress, problems can be discussed with a doctor and contracts and agreements will be understood.

The high school dropout rate for immigrant children is very high. They know that even if they do well in school, they won’t be able to attend college at a price they can afford. If they manage to get a college degree, they can’t get a good job because they are here illegally. The only jobs they can get are in hotels, restaurants, farms and others that are low wage. This defeats the purpose of their education and our country loses the benefits of these young people educated in our schools.

If undocumented people are offered legal status, they would have to register with the government, fill out an application, be finger printed and have a background check before receiving an I.D. card. People who fail these tests would be deported. We will all be safer when this happens and we could all rest easier knowing residents had been identified and investigated. And more drug smugglers would be caught when border guards don’t have to chase poor men, women and children trying to come in to work and live.

There are many reasons why we need immigration reform and why we all should be happy when we get it. Even the people who insist we should deport millions of people here now. Everyone will benefit when we get a comprehensive immigration reform package passed.

Festival keeps an eye on the future

This Korean community is working hard to make sure the children understand their heritage. DP

Korean community celebrates its heritage and passes it on to the next generation

By Madison Park | Sun reporter Miyong Kim worries that many younger Korean-Americans aren't familiar with their parents' culture.

Yesterday, she brought her 16-year-old son downtown to celebrate Korean culture and its place in Maryland at the 30th annual Korean Festival.

"It's to teach the next generation and let them understand this is who you are," said Kim of the festival, which was held at War Memorial Plaza.

The younger generations of Korean-Americans stop attending Korean churches and many can't speak the language, she said.

"Language is a major issue," said Kim, an Ellicott City resident. "And parents are very, very busy with survival and working 16 hours a day to send their kids to the best education, that the quality of conversation between parents and their children is diminishing."

Some Korean parents have limited English skills and their children have limited Korean skills, and they cannot communicate with each other, she said.
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Group eases the road to citizenship

This Arkansas group is helping permanent residents become citizens. DP

BY ROBERT J. SMITH SPRINGDALE — Abraham Carvajal doesn’t expect a tricky path to citizenship.

Carvajal, 19, was born in Mexico and has lived in Arkansas since he was 7, when his father took a job as a pastor in Hope.

He graduated from Shiloh Christian High School in Springdale. He speaks fluent English and works as a teller at Regions Bank in Springdale. He “never got around to” changing his status from a legal permanent resident to a U. S. citizen.

Carvajal is the type of legal immigrant the Arkansas Citizenship Coalition intends to move toward citizenship.

Carvajal said he’s looking into naturalization because he wants to vote.
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Immigrants get leg up in ASD program

Immigrant kids in grades 7-12 get help with practical survival skills to help them function in their school life. DP

by Jennifer Zilko ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Students who move to America from abroad face serious challenges: a new country, a new school and a new language.

The Anchorage School District now has a program to smooth that transition.

The students in Jessica Sterns' class at the Newcomers' Center aren't typical American students. All of them came to the Anchorage School District knowing little or no English.

"We get kids of all levels, some who came from countries where they had no education at all, so we started with the alphabet other's who have substantial education from their home countries," Sterns said.

The center offers a half day program for students new to the U.S. who don't speak English well enough to function in a regular classroom. The classes focus on English skills including reading, writing and speaking.

Imtiaz Azzam, a counselor at the Newcomer's Center, said the program also teaches practical skills.
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Skilled immigrants in US rally against visa delays

This rally was by skilled immigrants working here on temporary visas who are waiting for years, unable to get their permanent visas. DP Washington: About 1,000 highly skilled legal immigrants, including many Indians, rallied at Capitol Hill to protest long delays and vast bureaucratic backlogs in the US immigration system, and called for more permanent visas.

On Tuesday, the immigrants, including doctors, medical technicians and computer engineers from India and China, came to Washington from as far as California to participate in the protest rally. They carried placards and wore T-shirts emblazoned with American flags to call on Congress to provide more permanent visas for highly educated immigrants and more resources for the overburdened immigration system.

They said the plight of foreigners living in the US legally had been unfairly eclipsed by the polarised debate over illegal immigration that led to the defeat of an immigration overhaul in June.

The immigrants, who are living in the US on temporary student or high-skilled employment visas, said they were nearing despair with waits lasting as long as a decade to obtain visas giving them permanent residence, known as a green cards, New York Times reported.

Sridhar Narra, an India-born physician who participated in the rally, said his efforts to gain a green card had lasted almost eight years, including a two-year forced separation from his wife, also from India.
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Older immigrants team up to help others fit in

These immigrants are helping others who came from their homeland. DP

By SUE ONTIVEROS They have hopes and dreams for their lives in the United States.

No matter what their age when they arrived here.

And once they felt they had a little confidence in understanding the ways of this new country of theirs, they decided to help others from their homeland settle in, too.

I spent a fascinating Sept. 11 with the members of the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly. This group of 49 social service agencies serves older, often immigrant populations. As the name implies, often English was not their first language, and despite trying to embrace it, the new language sometimes is a challenge. Yet they continue to attempt to make it their own. (When I hear from people who lambaste immigrants for not speaking enough English, I often think, "I'd like to see you plopped in a foreign land and left to figure out the language. Then see how easy you think it would be." But I digress.)

Anyway, the group invited me to its annual meeting and dinner, where they were honoring several volunteers. The elderly helping the elderly. (Much to my surprise, when I got there, I realized I was getting an award, too. But I would have found the evening fascinating even without the plaque.)

What I noticed immediately was that I was pretty much in the midst of a mini-United Nations. Beth O'Grady, executive director for the coalition, said about 30 ethnic groups were in the house that night. All together, all getting along.

That spirit of cooperation is something that goes on year-round, O'Grady told me later. Knowing that their shared goal is to help limited-English-speaking elders get the services they might need, the different organizations point potential clients to sister organizations all the time. But back to the event. All around me were people dispelling different notions held by so many in the anti-immigrant crowd.
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Democrats in Senate returning to immigration

Some in Congress are working on the DREAM act again. It is a shame that immigration reform might only come in pieces, but perhaps it is better than ignoring the issue. DP

By Nicole Gaouette WASHINGTON - Months after Congress failed to pass a broad immigration overhaul, lawmakers are quietly returning to the issue, discussing narrower measures dealing with illegal immigrants and low-skilled laborers.

As early as this week, Senate Democrats are to introduce an amendment that would give conditional legal status to young illegal immigrants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, is expected to propose a visa program for farmhands that eventually would allow them to gain citizenship, while Republican senators are discussing a short-term guest worker program for laborers.

"We may be heading for another immigration battle," Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, said of the measures headed for the Senate floor.

Some of the measures now in the works do not have much bipartisan support, limiting their chances of success. And some lawmakers express doubts that it is possible to restructure the immigration system through separate bills.

"I'm personally very skeptical of a piecemeal approach," said Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, a member of the bipartisan coalition that tried to pass the overhaul earlier this year. "The minute we start doing the easy things, like taking care of agribusiness interests because they need the workers, ... we're leaving the hard things."
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Bureaucratic backlog creates nightmare for immigrants

People should not be in this country illegally, but this is the reason they know it is almost impossible to come in legally. DP

20,000 await completion of name-checks

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Seeking to become a US citizen, Biljana Petrovic filed her application, completed her interview, and passed her civics test.

More than three years later, she is still waiting to be naturalized - held up by an FBI name-check process that has been criticized as slow, inefficient, and a danger to national security.

Petrovic, a stay-at-home mother in Los Altos, Calif., who has no criminal record, has sued the federal government to try to speed up the process. She said it's as if her application has slipped into a "black hole."

"It's complete frustration," said Petrovic, who is originally from the former Yugoslavia and is a naturalized Canadian citizen. "It's not like I am applying to enter the country. I have been here for 19 years."

Nearly 320,000 people were waiting for their name checks to be completed as of early August, including more than 152,000 who had been waiting for more than six months, according to the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. More than 61,000 had been waiting for more than two years.

Applicants for permanent residency or citizenship have lost jobs, missed out on student loans, and in-state tuition, and been unable to vote or bring relatives into the country. The delays have prompted scores of lawsuits.

Already this fiscal year, more than 4,100 suits have been filed against the citizenship and immigration agency, compared with 2,650 last year and about 680 in 2005.
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Spanish bilingual schools no longer just for remedial education

A Spanish immersion school, with half of the students learning Spanish. French and German schools are very successful, this is another way for our students to become fluent in a second language, a valuable skill for them. DP

Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer In a sunny classroom at the Escuela Bilingüe Internacional on the Oakland-Berkeley border, a group of kindergartners clustered around a table, busily pasting scraps of colored paper onto collages, as their teacher offered guidance and glue.

A boy named Ian bounced up to the teacher, Rocío Salazar, and exclaimed, "Look! I made my name!"

"A ver tu nombre," she replied smoothly, repeating the boy's words, but in Spanish. "Donde está tu nombre?"
"Aquí!" pointed Ian, picking up on the Spanish.

"Qué bueno!" encouraged Salazar, who runs her class entirely in Spanish and gently guides her English-speaking pupils toward the new language.

A new school year has begun at the year-old Escuela Bilingüe, believed to be the state's first and only Spanish bilingual private school, where 110 children, about equally divided between English and Spanish speakers, are starting with a full immersion in Spanish. They are expected to graduate speaking, reading and writing fluently in both English and Spanish and with a mastery of all the usual academic subjects.

Private bilingual schools for students of French and German are well established - there are at least five French bilingual schools in the Bay Area alone - and they've long been popular among well-heeled parents with European connections wanting to raise cultured children who can skillfully navigate the global economy.
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Searching for the American dream

This is an interesting story about a valuable American citizen whose family came from Mexico. His big regret is not making sure all his family is bilingual now, they have almost all lost their Spanish. DP

By: Chad Frey, Newton Kansan When asked about preserving the family heritage, Russ Cuellar gets an uneasy grin on his face and admits that’s one area of his life he doesn’t feel very successful.

“That’s something we didn’t do well enough,” Cuellar said. “We tried to tell our children to not forget both of their nationalities. But too often when speaking at home, we reverted to English.”

The result is his children don’t know very much Spanish and would be hard pressed to carry on a conversation with Cuellar’s mother if she was still alive.

“My mother lived here for a long time,” Cuellar said. “She did baby sitting for us and always spoke Spanish. They can understand a few words, and a couple are really good.”

Cuellar gave an interview to the Kansan, much like he did during a project that recorded oral history, which is now on file at Bethel College and the Smithsonian Institute.
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Students learn from immigrants

These students are learning the viewpoints of immigrants. There is no way they can understand how difficult it is to be an immigrant unless they speak to these people. DP

By CUTTER MITCHELL Gilford High School students got a firsthand feel of what it is like to be an immigrant on Friday.

The students were visited by immigrant students from the Dover Adult Education Center who recently received their citizenship and are adjusting to the English language and the American culture.

Cynthia KeKung from Indonesia, Cee Cee Cerier from China, and Carmen Wold from Chile were all joined by their teacher, Bill Badgley, explained why they came to America and discussed the process of immigrating.

"We're trying to help (the students) understand the real face of immigrants," said Badgley.

The students listened intently as each told their very different stories.
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Friday, September 14, 2007

Immigrants' kids grow up in dual-language world

Raising these children to be fluent in 2 languages will give them many benefits later in life. They will often also study a third language when they are in high school. DP

BY HURST LAVIANA AND BRENT D. WISTROM, The Wichita Eagle When smiley 10-year-old Lourdes Martinez runs over to her mom and talks, she does it in Spanish.

But when she sits down on a sunbathed porch snuggling a little white poodle next to her dad, it's all English.

Dad wouldn't have it any other way.

"Being able to speak Spanish and English, it will open up doors for you," 38-year-old Guillermo Martinez said in English. "It's very important."

And it's increasingly common as immigrant parents with varied levels of English skills enter Kansas and their kids grow up in a dual-language world.

More than 10 percent of Kansas residents speak a language other than English at home, Census figures released this week show. Nationally, it's nearly 20 percent.

Although the numbers are growing, Martinez, who supervises the production department at a paint company, sometimes feels isolated. He said everyone he works with speaks only English -- and he feels pressure to speak it, too.
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

America is its immigrants

This letter was in the Arizona Republic today. I wish many more people felt this way. DP

Regarding "Foundation of America is crumbling" (Letters, Saturday): American politics might be causing the crumbling but not the culture. American culture has constantly been in flux as new immigrants arrive on the shores of this great country - the Irish, the Swedes, the Germans, the Mexican, the Polish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Koreans and so on - and whenever a new nationality arrives, we adapt, incorporate and harmonize the new milieu into what now becomes a different American culture than previous to the influx.

American culture is not static but fluid and not stagnant but refreshing. Let us carpe diem - seize the day - of opportunity to rejoice with our immigrants.

We will only be sorry if and when they leave, and that's not just Mexicans but also Koreans, Polish, Russians and a large list of immigrants who have come to build this country into what it is always becoming. - Gale D. Schmidt, Phoenix

Monday, September 03, 2007

Through immigrant eyes

This teacher gets her students to understand how hard it is for immigrant children who come to school without knowing English. Then they start helping those kids. DP

Teacher sees both sides of issue

By Donna Vavala, News Herald Writer On the first day of her Florida State University-Panama City class in “principles of teaching a foreign language,” Cristina Rios always begins speaking in French, then follows in Spanish.

When the students are thoroughly confused and wonder if they are in the right class, Rios switches to English and then asks them to compare this experience to how a young immigrant might feel on the first day of school.

“They are really surprised to see how difficult it is to function in a new language and a new learning environment,” Rios said in an interview. “I tell them to imagine how students at the elementary level must feel when they don’t know the language, the U.S. codes, the culture and the laws of the country.

“Once my students experience this first class, they take an advocacy role in making the true difference in teaching, not only for their class, but for the lives of their students.”

As an immigrant, Rios has a different perspective on immigration issues. She was born in Cuba, then moved to Colombia and on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where her father opened a gas business.
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American schools go global - in French, Chinese, Spanish, Creole

These classes are needed all over our country. Our students have to learn more languages to be competitive in the future. DP

By VERENA DOBNIK | Associated Press Writer NEW YORK - Days before the start of the school year, Fabrice Jaumont walked out of the French Embassy's Fifth Avenue mansion, his arms filled with boxes containing books, DVDs and CDs in his native tongue.

He loaded them into the trunk of a car. Destination: the Bronx.

The 35-year-old diplomat was headed to a public school in one of the nation's poorest districts. On Tuesday, some of the students in the Bronx's Jordan L. Mott middle school will arrive for science and other classes - taught in French.

Four new dual-language programs are starting in the city this fall for the first time: three in French, including one in Harlem, and one in Chinese.

"It's about time," says Jaumont, the education attache at the French Embassy in Manhattan, the cultural branch of the main embassy in Washington.

"This is a competitive country, and if Americans want to compete globally, they won't be first any more if their language skills are not good," says the energetic young diplomat, whose English is peppered with American jargon.
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Mission workers equip churches to minister to Muslim immigrants

It is good to see some missionaries helping different immigrant groups in this country. DP

By Laurie Entrekin ATLANTA (ABP) -- Butch and Nell Green, overseas missionaries since 1986, have entered a new stage of their ministry life: working in the United States.

After spending the majority of their lives working with Muslims in Senegal and Belgium, the Greens are back on U.S. soil to start a strategic ministry that teaches American churches how to care for Muslim immigrants in local communities.

Affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship since 1994, the Greens have an understanding of U.S. churches, Muslim populations and Muslim evangelical churches that makes them uniquely positioned to help lead the new venture.

It’s all part of a new and sometimes counterintuitive way of doing missions, they said.

“In our globalized world, the ones most poised and capable of reaching Muslim populations are not necessarily career missionaries overseas, but churches in America,” Nell Green said. “That’s because the nations have come here. It’s no longer about sending missionaries to remote villages because that remote village has come to you.”

From their home base in Rock Hill, S.C., the Greens will develop relationships with churches both in South Carolina and North Carolina over the next three years, helping congregations learn to pray for Muslim immigrants, understand the Islamic faith and share the gospel with cultural sensitivity.

And while cities like New York City and Washington, D.C. are well known homes to multiple races and ethnicities, South Carolina may not seem an area ripe for immigrant populations. But it is.

“Our point is that these smaller cities and even tiny towns -- because of the numbers of internationals -- have the potential of impacting the world,” Nell Green said. “Part of our work is to help people just realize that they’re there.”

Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., has agreed to provide the Greens with housing for their three-year project. The partnership began several years ago when the church hosted the Greens and a singing group from Belgium. Later, the church sent three mission teams to Belgium, and the Greens began spending their off-field assignment time in Rock Hill, preaching and leading Wednesday night fellowship groups. The partnership has been a blessing to both the Greens and Oakland Baptist, they said.

“You do not have to travel overseas to experience another culture,” said Christy McMillin-Goodwin, Oakland Baptist’s associate minister of education and missions. “As churches, we must respond to those who are now part of our communities. So often, we pass by these newcomers and their neighborhoods not realizing that they are immigrants.”