Sunday, March 30, 2008

St. Gregory provides more than a home for refugees

This school has a special program to help refugee children learn to read English and fit into the regular school system in the future. DP

Kids fleeing world's squalor, needing special education find a home

BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter The two Iraqi teens sit close in their classroom at St. Gregory the Great High School, whispering to each other as teacher Charles Pierce tries to teach them to read English.

"What is it?" Pierce finally asks, knowing he does not have the attention of the two refugees who arrived in the United States just three weeks ago.

"She wants to see your tattoo," 15-year-old Noor Ghanim Malek Alwaan says, giggling as she outs her sister Rand, 18, who punches her.

Pierce laughs, pushing up a shirt sleeve to show the body art that had distracted the girls.

"My God!" Rand blurts.

Pierce goes with the flow, and a discussion on tattoos ensues before they return to their studies.

The Iraqi girls are among nine refugee children -- relocated to Chicago through a United Nations program -- who have found a home at St. Gregory on the North Side. And more are on their way.

The tiny Archdiocese of Chicago school at 1677 W. Bryn Mawr is uniquely qualified to serve them. It offers the only four-year Catholic high school program in Chicago that accepts learning disabled students.

Most of the refugee students who go here qualify as learning disabled -- in need of special education services after arriving from squalid camps in war-torn countries like Burundi, the Congo and Sudan, where school was less important than survival.
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Immigrants who embody the American Dream

The immigrants who will be honored here are from Korea, Mexico, Iceland, Philippines, Germany and Eritrea. A perfect example of our "melting pot". DP

By: Karen Hata The Commonwealth Club will honor six immigrants to the U.S. selected for having best achieved the American Dream at the group's 20th Annual Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner on April 30 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

Those recognized will be lifetime board chair of the philanthropic Koret Foundation, Susan Koret, born in Seoul; Hispanic television Univision's number one news anchor Jorge Ramos from Mexico; artistic director and choreographer of the internationally renowned San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson, from Iceland; travel guru and owner of Casto Travel, Maryles Casto from the Philippines; high-tech entrepreneur, founder of LHM Ventures, and executive director of The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, Lore Harp McGovern, born in Germany; and Executive Director UCSF's Global Health Sciences, Dr. Haile T. Debas from Eritrea.

This dinner will mark the club's 105th anniversary and will also offer cocktails, a silent auction and a film that focuses on the achievements of the honorees.

Pomona mayor a 'symbol of leadership' for migrant community

This child was sent to the U.S. to live with her relatives. She now lives the dream of her parents and is a successful American. She is the mayor of Pomona. DP

The plight of immigrants in the U.S. inspired Norma Torres, who left Guatemala at age 5, to run for public office.

By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer When Pomona Mayor Norma Torres returned to Guatemala in October, it was the first time she had been back to her native country since she was a child.

But Torres got a hero's welcome.

As she toured the country she barely remembered, people everywhere recognized her on the streets.

"She's the mayor of Pomona," they said. Some brought magazines with her picture on the cover and asked for an autograph. They called her "the pride of Escuintla," her hometown, and "the hope of all migrants."

Crowds were so thick that the government sent police to escort her from town to town.

"It was like being a rock star," Torres said.

At one event, as she and her husband, Louis, got into an SUV, they were mobbed by people who threw handwritten notes into the vehicle. Some of the notes were pleas for help from people wanting to come to the United States.

Torres, 42, was deeply moved. After all, these were the same dreams her parents had for her.

"They sent me here for a better life," she said. "They wanted me to have a good job and maybe own a home."

Torres would achieve more than her parents imagined. In December, she became the first person outside Guatemala to be awarded the Order of the Great Knight, the country's highest honor.

Torres was only 5 years old in 1970 when her parents sent her to live with an uncle in Southern California. Guatemala was nearly a decade into a 36-year civil war that would leave hundreds of thousands dead and tens of thousands missing.
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Learning the language: Children study English as parents do

Since parents can't go to class without having a place to take their children, this English program teaches the parents in one classroom and their small children in another. DP

By AARON CHIMBEL / WFAA Mobile Journalist Three, four and five year-olds clinch hands and began to chug their way through the alphabet.

In a classroom nearby their parents are learning too. Not by singing, they're studying words and phrases about clothing.

But without the games for their children, many of the adults say they wouldn't be able to learn English.

"I don't have nobody to leave her with," Tereza Loburya, who came to Dallas three years ago from Sudan says of her daughter, Matilda.

Asked if there is anyplace that Alicia Garcia can take her 18-month-old daughter, Maria, while she attends class, she replies: "No, just here."

That's the dilemma for many immigrants wanting to learn English. If there is no safe place to leave their children, they can not go to class.

"Unfortunately there's just not a lot of opportunity for free pre-school programs in Dallas," said Sarah Polley, the executive director of Vickery Meadow Learning Center, where Garcia and Loburya and their daughters are all take classes for free.

Polley says there are about 80 Dallas I.S.D. pre-K spaces in the neighborhood for nearly 5,000 children under 6.
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Influx of immigrants reshapes Sacramento suburbs

This article shows how immigrants are changing the suburbs, not just the cities. This is exactly like immigrants have done ever since the country started. DP

By Susan Ferriss There may be fewer McDonald's and Wienerschnitzel eateries.

And if suburban Sacramento is any indication, Middle America is in for more Asian noodles and octopus, and Mexican chiles and pickled cactus.

U.S. suburbs are getting an ethnic makeover as more immigrants leave traditional big-city ethnic enclaves and head to the 'burbs to forge their American dream.

The Sacramento region – and eight other U.S. metropolitan areas – are featured as examples of the phenomenon in a new book, "Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America."

"As the nation as a whole becomes more suburban, so do immigrants," said Robin Datel, a California State University, Sacramento, geography professor who co-wrote the book's chapter about Sacramento with her husband, Dennis Dingemans. He's a retired geography professor at the University of California at Davis.

In the past, the book points out, it was the offspring of immigrants who moved out of cities, many of them abandoning their cultural practices.

Today, immigrants from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis to Charlotte, N.C., are going suburban and taking their tastes with them.

Datel and Dingemans pointed out a once-derelict strip mall along Stockton Boulevard now dominated by Vietnamese and other Asian shops. Latino businesses are starting to "spill over," Datel said, from more traditional Latino zones.

In the Little Vietnam Plaza, near 65th Street, Pho Anh Dao noodle shop manager Henry Ha said he often shops for vegetables for his restaurant at La Victoria Mercado and Carniceria, several doors down.
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Seacoast United helps immigrants, refugees get acclimated

This wonderful program helps immigrants and refugees through their soccer club and dance classes. We need programs like this all over the country. DP

By Ken Stejbach The Seacoast United Soccer Club brings the soccer to the B.R.I.N.G.I.T. program.

Seacoast United's U-18 and U-16 boys academy teams played host to players from the B.R.I.N.G.I.T. program on its snow-cleared fields at its outdoor facility Monday night. It's part of the SUSC's community outreach program.

The B.R.I.N.G.I.T. program, short for "Bringing Refugees, Immigrants and Neighbors Gently Into Tomorrow," is a Manchester-based program designed to help guide immigrants and refugees into the Manchester school system. There are 60 different countries involved in the program with at least 80 different language dialects.

It's a collaboration between the Manchester School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of Manchester, Southern New Hampshire Services and the Seacoast United Soccer Club. While its chief goal is high school graduation, the program also aspires to lessen discipline problems and help the immigrants and refugees in Manchester better adjust to their surroundings, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Brendan McCafferty and Hector Urrea, the program's co-directors, began organizing it about 15 months ago. Seacoast United's part in the program was made possible through a donation by Liberty Mutual. Seacoast United supplies cleats, jerseys and other soccer equipment and its playing fields.

The big idea behind it all, noted McCafferty, is to "better connect our immigrants, our students and families to the city schools and homes, and provide positive role models."

Besides the soccer aspect of the program, dance is scheduled for the girls. There are 85 kids in grades 4-12 involved in the program and there are 40 adults who are taking English language learning classes in the Manchester school system.

"Seacoast United's involvement with the B.R.I.N.G.I.T. program is a chance for our club players, parents and staff to become aware of what it means to help our community on a personal level," said Matt Glode, Seacoast United's outreach director. "Living in the Seacoast, our players are far removed from many social issues that are prevalent in larger cities. Only thanks to Liberty Mutual's support of our Community Outreach Programs is our involvement in the program even possible."

The program, noted Glode, accomplishes a great deal. "Two nights a week they are able to get off the streets, be with friends in a healthy and positive environment and just play. Both McCafferty and Urrea have been successful in relating the program to academic success.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lewis & Clark students bringing immigration policy to life

A very interesting project these students are involved in. They are learning about the immigration process by studying a small group of Mexicans that has immigrated to Oregon. DP

Students document a Mexican migration experience

By Jodi Heinz, Director of Public Relations PORTLAND, Ore. -- While thousands of college students will spend their spring break at the beach, a group of students taking an immigration history course, U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, will be exploring the migration route between the two countries, documenting Oaxacan immigration to Oregon.

The alternative spring break project, from March 22 to March 29, is the brainchild of Associate Professor of History and Borderlands teacher Elliott Young, a transnational historian of the Americas, specializing in race and national identity. The trip is designed to bring U.S. immigration policy and history of the U.S.-Mexico border to life.

In the last 20 years, immigration of indigenous Oaxacans to Oregon has grown exponentially, and yet very little is known about how these trans-border communities function. Rather than the classic model of immigrants leaving behind their home countries and assimilating into the United States, Oaxacans maintain strong ties to their home communities, sending money, and returning to fulfill political posts in their villages.

“This is not only about studying a relatively small group of Mexican migrants," Young said. "Understanding the way these transnational communities function is key to understanding our increasingly globalized world."

For Young’s students, recognizing the complexities of these immigration patterns not only enriches their classroom experience, it prepares them to be better global citizens and leaders by providing the level of understanding that will be critical to developing effective policies at the local, state and national level.
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Immigration Chief Preps Candidates for New Test

The goal of the new immigration test is to make Americans, not just citizens who don't know how to fit in here. A new program helps non profit groups teach the newcomers. DP

By SARAH GARLAND, Staff Reporter of the Sun A wave of new immigrants has prompted the federal immigration agency to initiate a new government-led assimilation project. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization, projected that one in five residents will be foreign-born by 2050. In response, the chief of the Office of Citizenship at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alfonso Aguilar, says it was necessary for the government to become more active about integrating the newcomers.

The project, which focuses on civic and political assimilation, not cultural, has been gearing up for several years, but it accelerated this month as immigration officials prepared to launch a new citizenship exam in October that they say is designed to be more meaningful that the current test. "We need to build an Americanization movement for the 21st century that recognizes what is different from 100 years ago," Mr. Aguilar said. "The political, that's where we have the common elements that bind us."

As a part of the assimilation effort, the government this month made available a new "citizenship tool-kit" for nonprofit groups that prepare immigrants for the citizenship test and is beginning to hold trainings on the test across the country for adult education teachers that work with immigrants.

Mr. Aguilar has also been touring cities to spread awareness about the new test and the government's new focus on integration.

"We don't just make them citizens, we make them feel like Americans," Mr. Aguilar told The New York Sun at his first stop in New York City as a part of the tour last Thursday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Immigrants as Neighbors in Need

The pastor of this church has a philosophy that says "Help the stranger". Sounds like a good philosophy. DP

by Christy McKerney SAN JOSE, Calif.— You could sum up much of the Rev. Joseph Leon’s theology with one phrase: Help the stranger.

“We have to be out on the mission fields,” said Leon, pastor of Pueblo de Dios, a congregation whose 160 members come largely from surrounding immigrant communities. “We are soldiers of the Lord, and we have to be out in our community, finding out what are the needs.”

For Leon, the work of the Christian faithful is to be disciples of God, to minister spiritually and practically to those in need -- including illegal immigrants.

The communities surrounding Pueblo de Dios ("House of God" in Spanish) are largely Latino and Ethiopian. There are men in steel-toed boots and blue jeans, looking for work outside Home Depot. There are boys and girls who Leon knows with the right encouragement might grow up one day to become professionals and good husbands and wives. There are young couples loading trucks with furniture and all their belongings, preparing to move on in search of the next opportunity.

Leon said he doesn’t know how many of the immigrants he reaches out to with clothing, food and personal products are documented, and how many came to this country without papers. He believes the country should deport those who break the law and are a danger to society, but he also believes most immigrants he meets are hard working people who deserve to live and work in safety and to receive spiritual solace.

“The church is a safe place for them to come and worship,” said Leon. “It’s not only our church, but all the churches in the valley.”

Pueblo de Dios is a small church that has served the neighborhood for 50 years, long enough to see the congregation turn from entirely Anglo-American to a largely first- and second-generation immigrant population. The church offers daycare for neighborhood children and grows vegetables in a community garden. The church also gives clothing, food and personal supplies to those in need.

He sees his mission as “Just going out there, walking out there and getting noticed, inviting people to church, not this church but a directory of churches.”

He feels a responsibility as a Christian to help the most vulnerable. And, he said, immigrants are vulnerable: They’re vulnerable to their own community, they’re vulnerable to dishonest employers and to landlords and to a culture that seems alien to them.

Some churches are not so welcoming, he conceded, acknowledging a national trend against immigration.

“Americans in general do feel threatened by people coming to our nation,” he said.

But for Leon, the most important thing a faith community can do -- in addition to helping people achieve their basic needs -- is to instill hope.

“People need a sense of hope. I think we have to believe in something,” he said. “I think that faith brings us hope, that God is going to work somehow someday in the midst of our daily lives, and on our daily walk. I think with faith, with faith all things are possible.”

Immigrants want to blend in, keep mother tongue

Immigrants want to blend in and also keep their language. So long as they also learn English, this is terrific; bilingual residents are always an asset in any country. DP

By Babita Persaud | Sentinel Staff Writer Restaurant owner Mateo Ramos hated to do it, but he couldn't promote one of his best kitchen workers to become a waitress.

The reason: She couldn't speak English.

The irony wasn't lost on him. Ramos' father and uncles came to the U.S. from Mexico unable to speak a word of English and rose to not only master the language but establish a national restaurant chain that caters to both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking customers.

"To speak English is expected," said Ramos, the owner of Azteca D'ora on South Orange Blossom Trail.

Unlike some other countries, the United States has never made English its official language, although 30 states, including Florida in 1988, have done so.

But those laws haven't stopped foreign-language speakers in Central Florida from keeping their native tongue.

As the population grows, more immigrants teeter between two worlds: They want to keep their own language and ties to their culture and homeland. They also want their children -- some American born -- to speak their mother tongue and keep their traditions alive for generations to come.

On the other hand, most immigrants want to blend into the English-speaking community.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our faith is calling us to reach out and help those in need

It's a shame all the people who hate immigrants, but consider themselves good people, don't believe this too. DP

By THE REV. DENISE L. STRINGER, pastor of Emmaus United Methodist Church in Albany On Sunday morning, many of us will wave palm branches to re-enact Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. We will recall the image of Jesus riding a farm animal into the city. We will identify with the crowds who heralded Jesus as a victorious savior. Many of us will recognize Jesus as a nonviolent reformer.

This first-century rabbi spent his public life working among those for whom no one else cared. He kept company with people of questionable backgrounds. His followers called him Messiah and king. Others judged him a nuisance at best and a public enemy at worst. Religious leaders wanted to be like him but could not be. So they undermined his work and had him killed.

Today, people in the United States share a vision like that of Jesus. We use our advantaged status to love and serve the world's outcasts, including those who escaped oppression in their native lands. We build avenues of mercy for newcomers who don't know English well and find it hard to adapt to a new culture.

Ordinary Americans are quietly working as modern-day prophets, teachers and healers for the strangers in our midst. We communicate with the common vocabulary of a smile, pantomime, honesty and faith. People respond to caring with openness and gratitude. They take another step on the road from trauma toward healing. They move from exclusion and suspicion toward assimilation and good citizenship.

Their courage and endurance inspire us. We discover new power for innovation and investment. Collaborating on hospitality and celebrating a new way of blessing the poor have the potential to revitalize our communities. With a little community organizing and a lot of faith, our neighborhoods can be welcoming places that offer literacy instruction, multilingual social and psychological services, accessible child care and health care, decent housing, job training and multicultural worship. But no single organization can address all the needs of our new neighbors from Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Cameroon, Burundi, Ghana and other places too numerous to name. Failure to provide for people's needs demands peaceful protest. We must challenge public systems and private attitudes that encourage prejudice and discourage assimilation.

The image of Jesus entering the city calls out to faithful people, begging us to trade self-interested lifestyles for compassionate service and effective protest. This Holy Week calls us to claim the promise of Jesus, "The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you." This year, may our hosannas yield to visionary collaboration on behalf of the people Jesus came to liberate and heal.
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Americans must speak more than just English

Americans must become bilingual or multilingual, like most of the rest of the world is. DP

By Diane Mufson, The Herald-Dispatch My University of Vermont alumni magazine arrived this week. After checking the alumni gossip pages, a small article caught my eye. It began, "Caules vacas estan en celo?"

This Spanish phrase has become important in a state that had more cows than people in the mid 20th century and, aside from French-Canadians, has traditionally had few non-English speakers. Now that quite a few Latin Americans are working with Vermont dairy farmers, it is important for the farmers to know, "Which cows are in heat?"

The first week of March is designated as "National Foreign Language Week," which regardless of cows, makes it timely to discuss the importance of Americans increasing our limited foreign language skills.

While many recent immigrants speak a foreign language and have various degrees of facility in English, the great majority of Americans are monolingual; they communicate only in English.

As a nation founded by immigrants, it was and still is vitally important that we have a unified language, English, to simplify communication. But as our globe continues to shrink by way of mouse clicks and airplane flights, it has become apparent that even though many people throughout the world speak English, we Americans are at a disadvantage if most of us cannot speak with others in their native tongues.

This became obvious following 9/11. We learned that one of our country's great weaknesses was ability to adequately decipher communications of those who do not use English or even other European languages.

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages indicates that about a third of American students in grades 7 to 12 are taking foreign languages, but more than 95 percent study only Spanish, French, German, Italian or Latin.
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Goal Set for Reducing Backlog on Citizenship Applications

This is good news for all the people who applied for citizenship last year, it means they will be able to register and vote in November. DP

By JULIA PRESTON officials said on Friday that they expected to complete about 930,000 citizenship applications in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, reducing a huge backlog in a time frame that would allow many new citizens to register to vote in the November elections.

The projection from the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency came as its director, Emilio T. Gonzalez, praised his staff in a statement, saying it had reduced overall waiting times for immigrants seeking to become American citizens to a maximum of 16 months, from an 18-month projection Mr. Gonzalez made in January.

But the agency’s internal figures on the applications that remain in the pipeline indicate that to meet its goal it will have to work much faster than it has in recent months. Of 1,051,186 naturalization applications the agency is processing, 75 percent are still in the early phases of being logged in and placed in line for scheduling of several required steps, the figures show.

Only 262,780 applications are in the time-consuming later phases, when applicants must submit fingerprints and pass required background checks, and English and civics tests, according to the figures, which were provided by Congressional staff members.

Lawmakers from both parties and Latino immigrant groups have criticized Mr. Gonzalez’s agency for underestimating a surge of citizenship applications in the last year, which was driven not only by anticipation of fee increases but also by rising interest in the presidential race. The delays threatened to leave more than one million immigrants who applied last summer to become citizens without a chance to vote in November.

Chris Rhatigan, a spokeswoman for the agency, said officials there expected to complete by Sept. 30 all the naturalization applications received last June and more than half from July, the peak months of the surge.

She said the agency was not timing naturalizations to the November elections. “We don’t do anything based on the election cycle,” she said, adding that the applications would be evaluated “without compromising national security or the quality or integrity of the immigration system.”

Lawmakers noted that even if the agency met its projection, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had applied since June would not be naturalized in time to vote in November.

“Certainly we welcome any progress that U.S.C.I.S. makes in clearing up the backlog,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration. “But even their best projection leaves half a million people out in the cold, unable to vote.”

Many Immigrants Struggling As Construction Jobs Vanish

The slowdown in construction is hurting immigrants along with everyone else. Legal and illegal workers are without work. DP

By MICHAEL SASSO, The Tampa Tribune WIMAUMA - Ramon De La Rosa couldn't be more of an optimist. He sprinkles "thanks to God" into every conversation and, during a short interview, broke into a boxer's pose three times to illustrate his never-say-die attitude.

But these days, his optimism - indeed, the spirit of thousands of Hispanic construction workers - is being put to the test.

De La Rosa's painting and drywall business is just surviving at the moment, he says, operating at perhaps 20 percent of its capacity. Where he had 15 workers a couple of years ago, today it's just himself, his wife and three employees.

Three of his former crew left to look for work in North Carolina. Two went to Texas. At least a couple returned to their native Mexico, he says.

Still, De La Rosa counts himself lucky for having any work at all. Growing up in Mexico, his mother occasionally had nothing to feed him and his three sisters other than sugar water, he says.

"I was surviving on less in Mexico," said the 44-year-old from Fort Meade, who immigrated to Florida 10 years ago.

Construction workers of all ethnicities are hurting during the housing slump, but Hispanic workers appear to be suffering more than most. In recent years, Hispanic immigrants flooded into the construction industry to capitalize on the housing boom. Some, like De La Rosa, are U.S. citizens, speak at least a little English, and thus might find work in other industries. But those here illegally have fewer work prospects.
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Immigrants who served U.S. deserve citizenship

This retired U.S. Army colonel has a good point. It should be easy to put veterans on the fast-track, but that is not the story. Citizenship should be automatic for people who served this country in the military. DP

Veterans have to wait too long to get their applications approved

By Jack Jacobs, Military analyst The U.S. doesn't offer free health care, and the economy is coming closer and closer to a recession, yet still, the number of people applying for American citizenship is skyrocketing. Last year, it doubled. Despite our nation's problems, the message hasn't changed: If you want opportunity and freedom, come to America.

The enormous administrative burden of processing so many more citizenship applications has slowed the process, never particularly speedy, almost to a halt. But for one group, the interminable wait is particularly difficult: veterans.

Throughout the history of the U.S., immigrants have served in the armed forces, often in disproportionately larger numbers than their percentage of the general population. During the Civil War, entire regiments were composed of recently-arrived foreigners, mostly Germans and Irish. And in the World War II, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed almost completely of Japanese-Americans who had been classified as enemy aliens, taken from their homes and interned in camps, became the Army’s most highly decorated unit.

The current indignity is partly the result of a mindless bureaucracy unable to operate with an increased workload. For example, conducting a background check of each applicant ought to be fairly quick, given the nature of technology and automation, but it doesn’t. Personnel files, fingerprint information and other data ought to be shared among federal agencies, particularly those involved in the citizenship process, but they aren’t.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

3 immigrants talk about their lives since coming to America

These three immigrants tell their stories; how they got here and how they are doing now. How many of us understand the hardships and could do the same thing? DP

By Dan McFeely, Without a visa or a welcome, Juvenal Gamarra walked into the United States 21 years ago -- hiking overnight through the mountains near Tijuana, Mexico -- into a land of freedom and opportunity.

"One of my friends almost got bit by a rattlesnake," the Peruvian-born Gamarra said, recalling his journey to cross the border into California. "The risks were many, but all I could think about was making it here."

Like those of millions before him, his reasons for risking arrest and deportation -- even death on the dangerous trek across the border -- were well established: to escape economic hardship in his homeland and live the American dream.

It's a commonly heard refrain in the Hispanic community of Indianapolis, home to a growing number of legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American nations.

Entering and staying in the United States legally isn't a viable option for most unskilled foreign workers; the U.S. grants only a limited number of temporary visas. So they sneak across borders and typically live in the shadows.

These back-door arrivals include women such as Veronica Guerrero, who entered the country with her parents illegally as a 9-year-old, eventually went to work in a hotel kitchen and, after winning her citizenship through an amnesty program in the 1980s, now owns a shop that sells fancy First Communion dresses for Mexican girls.

Jose Luis Alcauter arrived with only a temporary visa and little money and now runs a thriving small bakery operation and is a legal resident.
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Why don't all immigrants come here legally?

This is a very interesting article telling how difficult and expensive it is to come into this country. People who think it is easy should read the whole story today. DP

The road to a legal life in America: More complex, costly than many know

By Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star If you haven't said it, you've probably heard it: "I understand people want to come here; I just want them to do it legally, like my great-grandfather did."

But they don't come through Ellis Island anymore.

Hector Arroyo Garcia of Phoenix has waited 11 years for a green card for his wife and nearly nine years for green cards for his daughters so they could come from Mexico.

The Silva-Felix family of Douglas could be forever separated from their oldest daughter in Mexico, in part because the family lacked the money to hire an attorney and the knowledge to handle their own green-card applications.

University of Arizona assistant professor Cecilia Rios-Aguilar and doctoral candidate Patricia Azuara — highly-educated, sought-after professionals who beat the odds to get visas — worry about their futures and dread their visits to U.S. consulates for renewals.

The reality, immigration and human-rights advocates say, is that the U.S. immigration system has become a legal quagmire.

The process is restrictive, cumbersome and unwelcoming, critics say. In their view, it forces families to be separated and pushes desperate people to cross illegally — many through Southern Arizona's desert.

"People imagine that there is this system to welcome people because we are this nation of immigrants and we welcome people and we are so good and organized and there are all these systems in place," says Patricia Mejia, a Tucson immigration attorney. "But there is no system. The immigration system has failed."
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Crafting a cultural identity

There are many variations of the term "American" here. Some of these Hispanic people have been in this area before the U.S. was a nation. DP

The valley’s Hispanic residents broaden the definition of ‘American’

By Sarah L. Stewart Deimi Bustillos is an American. The long-haired, big-eyed Avon Elementary student was born here eight years ago. She wears an Old Navy sweatshirt, loves “Harry Potter” movies and adores dogs so much she decided to write a school report about them.

Only one noticeable difference separates Deimi from what most would consider the “typical” American third-grader: She barely speaks English.

After spending her toddler years in the United States, Deimi moved to Mexico with her family and attended school there until returning to the valley in August. She now attends a daily native-language class, where she’s learning concepts in Spanish and gradually learning English with about a dozen other young, relative newcomers to this country.

Deimi is one of many Mexican-Americans in the Vail Valley who have just begun to call this nation home.

In the 1990 U.S. Census, 13 percent of Eagle County’s population was of Hispanic or Latino origin; by 2006, that figure had more than doubled to 27 percent. At Avon Elementary alone, 90 percent of the student body is Hispanic and more than 50 percent isn’t proficient in English, a stark contrast from the school’s demographics just a decade ago.

But new immigrants are far from the only Hispanic identity in the valley. Some Hispanic families have been here for centuries, before Colorado was a state and before the United States was a nation.

These two groups, while sharing some cultural characteristics, occupy opposite ends of the spectrum — from learning to establish a life in a new land to having claimed that land for generations. In doing so, they offer a glimpse within our own valley of the continually evolving story of what it means to be American.
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Helping immigrants live the dream of living off the land

These immigrant farmers are being helped by a conference to help them learn agriculture rules and regulations. These farmers are the majority of vendors at farmers' markets and can use the help with marketing, organic certification and production of healthy foods. DP

Minnesota's immigrant farmers bring diverse culture and food to farmers' markets, and a conference this week will teach them about farm costs, marketing and government rules.

By JOY POWELL, Star Tribune Morning after morning, in a greenhouse near Hastings, a handful of Hmong farmers plant seeds and tend to sprouts of basil, lemongrass, flowers and other produce that they'll sell at farmers' markets this spring.

Just off Hwy. 55, this Hmong-owned farm is nestled in the metro area, just like a growing number of immigrants' small-scale farms and garden plots throughout the state.

The immigrant farmers make up nearly half of the vendors in the farmers' markets that are popping up in community after community to serve consumers who want connections to the source of their food.

They are the kind of small-scale farmers that organizers of an immigrant-farmer training conference hope to attract Friday and Saturday.

These farmers face many challenges -- the least of which is a command of the English language adequate enough to understand the rules and regulations that govern the growing of food and flowers. They need technical assistance and information on subjects ranging from marketing to microbes.

The conference will be offered in six languages for at least 140 farmers, including those of Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Somali, Ethiopian and Latino origins. Another 30 or so people from government and nonprofit agencies also are to attend the conference near Como Park in St. Paul.
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Students celebrate diversity

This school is using National Foreign Language Week to showcase all the countries represented in their student population and the languages taught in their classes. DP

Foreign languages at Martinsburg High School spotlighted

By LAUREN HOUGH / Journal Staff Writer Martinsburg High School students are shining a spotlight this week on all the languages spoken and learned in their classrooms as part of a celebration of the diversity of their classmates.

National Foreign Language Week is the impetus for events that showcase different cultures and other countries with special activities like salsa-dancing lessons and Peace Corps presentations.

“As our world is globalizing, the acquisition of foreign languages is becoming more and more important,” said John Gonano, who teaches Spanish II and IV at the high school, where French and Latin classes are also offered to students.

Just as important is the recognition of all the languages — 22 this year — currently being spoken in Berkeley County.

While 82 percent of the district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) population is Spanish-speaking, Berkeley County students also speak Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese and Russian.

“Berkeley County has a high percentage of other nationalities compared to the rest of the state,” said Debbie Hartz, who teaches ESL and Spanish I at the high school. Those numbers have been increasing over recent years.

To help students whose first language is not English, ESL teachers work to coordinate efforts with those of other educators, Hartz said, and also help students schedule their classes in order to keep them on the path toward success.

Non-ESL teachers can help by speaking slowly and clearly in class, and by finding new ways to pre-teach academic vocabulary words. Though students may be conversational in English, some terms specific to science or other subjects can be more difficult for them to recognize, she said.

“The teachers at Martinsburg High School are wonderful,” Hartz added. “They knock themselves out.”
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For more immigrants, suburbia's a nice fit

This article shows that new immigrants are assimilating quickly by moving into the suburbs and small towns and away from the big cities. DP

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Twice, Nancy Cadavid left her native Colombia to live in the United States. Twice, she settled in cities that have long attracted large numbers of immigrants — New York first, Miami second.

Now that she's here to stay, Cadavid, 44, has chosen to live far from the large cities that have been traditional immigrant gateways. She works two jobs and owns a house here in central Florida, near Orlando and Disney World. Her daughter graduated from Florida State University and works in advertising in Tampa. Her son attends community college and works part time at Disney.

Cadavid's tale is more than an immigrant success story. It reflects the path that immigrants increasingly are taking after they first enter the country — legally or illegally. Her moves eventually landed Cadavid — now a U.S. citizen — in a suburban county, well ensconced in middle-class America.

The movement of the foreign-born after they arrive sheds light on a key issue in the national immigration dialogue: How quickly immigrants assimilate into American culture and progress from a transient population to one that pays taxes, achieves homeownership and becomes largely self-sufficient.

Traditionally, newcomers settled in urban enclaves teeming with immigrants who shared their language and culture. They didn't spread out much until their children grew up and moved away.
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Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Fighting Chance

This online program teaches students in their own language and they are able to better understand the lessons they have in school. This is a supplement to their ESL classes and helps them pass their classes and learn English too. DP

Lucha program helps immigrant students beat challenges of new land and language

by Ryan Holeywell Donna High School senior Sergio Barrientos knew almost no English when he moved here from Reynosa two years ago.

But this spring, he’ll graduate from high school and join the U.S. Navy.

District officials point to Barrientos as an example of the power of Lucha, a new online program that caters to recent immigrant students and is making waves across the state.
“With the help of Lucha, I’m a senior,” Barrientos said.

The program allows recent students who have emigrated from Mexico to take online courses in their native language and earn high school credit in Texas.

Proponents of Lucha, which means fight, hope the program will help address the struggle immigrant students face when they are forced to try to understand classes taught in a language they barely understand.

“The challenge of these students was a double whammy,” said Felipe Alanis, a former Texas Education Agency chief who pioneered the program two years ago. “You not only have to learn the language, you have to learn the content.”

Generally, bilingual education is not required in Texas secondary schools. Students are instead placed in English as a Second Language programs in which the classes are taught in English.

Lucha is a supplement to ESL, not a replacement, and students using the software continue to receive classroom instruction in English, Alanis said.
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

For years, her instruction has helped immigrants assimilate

A nice story about a woman and her group teaching immigrant mothers to speak English. She doesn't speak their language, is able to teach with pictures, acting, etc. DP

'English is such a tough language. But these mothers are here to learn.'

By DOMINGO RAMIREZ JR., Star-Telegram staff writer HURST -- A sign at the Bedford library stopped Mary Griffitts in her tracks in 1989.

It read "Sign-up: Training for ESL classes."

For Griffitts, it was a challenge.

"I had always felt that if you lived in this country, that you should learn English," Griffitts said. "At that time I thought, 'Well it's now time for me to put up or shut up.'"

With no teaching background, Griffitts took the training class and has now been a volunteer ESL teacher for 18 years.

Griffitts, of Bedford, has also been the volunteer ESL teacher at Mission Central for the last two years, driving to the Hurst center twice a week to teach the hourlong class in the center's food pantry.

"A few years ago, we needed an ESL teacher because of the families we served," said Emily Youngberg, the executive director of Mission Central, a nonprofit agency that provides food and clothing to low-income families. "Children were coming here for help in reading and homework while their mothers just sat waiting for them."

Griffitts was already a volunteer at the food pantry when Youngberg approached her to teach ESL to the adults.
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Education barriers outlined

This report shows what is needed to get more immigrants able to qualify for college. First is better English skills. DP

Immigrants need boosts to college

By Jacqueline Reis TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF WORCESTER— Area schools, colleges, businesses, policy-makers and organizations will have to work together to lower the barriers between immigrants and college educations, according to a recent task force report from The Colleges of Worcester Consortium.

A massive infusion of money aimed at smoothing the path to education for immigrants is the other way to lower the barriers, according to report information.

The report from the Consortium Task Force on Immigration and Higher Education in Central Massachusetts identifies needs such as English language courses (about 3,200 people are on waiting lists for English classes in Central Massachusetts) and a better understanding of the dozens of ways immigrants can be legally in the United States without a green card or citizenship.

Many of Worcester’s immigrants are coming from different parts of the world as opposed to those coming to the state as a whole. The city’s foreign-born population rose 66.5 percent between 1990 and 2000, and the largest numbers of immigrants arriving now are from Ghana, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, El Salvador, Albania and Liberia. For the state as a whole, in contrast, the largest numbers of immigrants are coming from Brazil, Portugal, China, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The consortium report doesn’t distinguish between legal and illegal, or undocumented, immigrants.
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