Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stuck in red tape

An indication that the red tape situation has not gotten much better over these past years. It is appalling that this is still happening - this is the reason so many immigrants say they come here illegally. DP

Former Fulbright Scholar not alllowed to return to U.S.
By Jacob Longan - NewsPress Oklahoma State University’s English department thought it had made a hire that would have a tremendous benefit for students.

Then bureaucracy got in the way.

Dr. Azfar Hussain was hired to fill a one-year vacancy in the department. As a Fulbright Scholar, he was required to teach two years in his native Bangladesh after earning his doctorate and master’s degree from Washington State University.

Hussain married an American citizen, California native Melissa Tennyson, in May 2002, and applied for a U.S. visa while he was still here in 2005.

This summer, he was led to believe the visa would be approved before he needed to be in Stillwater in mid-August. After repeated inquiries, word finally came that it was conditionally approved but “waiting on further processing.”

“They didn’t tell us if that meant two days, two weeks, two years, two decades,” said Melissa. “We really had no, no, no idea what that meant.”

Azfar was supposed to teach classes beginning earlier this month but it is unclear when he will be able to return to America, where he lived from 1995 to 2006. The government told the family Azfar is going through a standard waiting period of three to six months that applies to all male immigrants from Bangladesh. Calls to different governmental offices, including congressmen, and an immigration lawyer have not ended his exile. Neither has a letter from OSU to the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh.

A call to the Homeland Security Department seeking comment was referred to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for USCIS, said she could not comment on specific cases.
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Refugees work toward American dream

This story tells about 2 refugee families who have started their own businesses in St Louis. They are struggling and work almost 24/7, but are trying to achieve the "American Dream". DP

By Doug Moore, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH The first month of business at African Grocery Store has been slow. Hours can pass without a single customer. Ice cream treats fill a freezer at the front of the store. Cigarette packs are stacked below the cash register. Cans, jars and boxes neatly fill three rows of shelves.

Owner Nubarido Kuebee was waiting last week for the machine that processes food stamp cards to arrive. Without it, the refugees that he expects will be his main customers won't be coming in.

Kuebee takes the slow start in stride. Just having a storefront to call his own fills him with pride.

"In America, if you want to be somebody, you can be," Kuebee, 42, said from his store on South Grand Boulevard.

For the Nigerian refugee, the grocery is the beginning of the unlimited possibilities that he sees his new home country offering.

Mehedin "Mickey" Salihu, who came to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1999, says the move from dead-end jobs to business owner is the ultimate goal, but it's not easy.

"I pretty much work 24-7," Salihu said. "That's the part I didn't know. But you find out as you go."

Salihu has lived with his wife, Raza, in St. Louis for about five years. Now U.S. citizens, the Salihus have two businesses, three children and own a house in south St. Louis.

He owns Kosomax Contracting, which specializes in finishing basements. He also runs a security business, hired for concerts and special events.
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Turning language barrier into opportunity

A story about another immigrant who learned our language and has broadened her horizons and dreams. She is studying to be a teacher now. DP

By Thacher Schmid Like many first-generation Latino immigrants, Maribel Ramirez Nunez had low expectations for herself when she moved to Woodland from Mexico in 2002. They didn’t go beyond vacuum cleaners and mops.

“I started talking about going to college, and that thought was nowhere in her mind,” said Sheri Monge, who mentored Ramirez at the Woodland Community Service Center. “She was going to clean houses. That’s the job she was looking forward to doing the rest of her life. ... To see that limited thinking is sad, but we see that over and over again.”

With the help of Monge and others, Ramirez overcame her limited English, limited education, limited finances and the many cultural obstacles that trip up many new Mexican emigres. Now 23, she is fluent in English and Spanish, attends college and teaches English at St. Rose Catholic School in Longview.

Ramirez said she was taunted by “a few” white students at Woodland High School soon after arriving.

“They were always saying, la migra, la migra, because they thought maybe they were going to scare me,” Ramirez recalled. The phrase is Spanish slang for border patrol or immigration police.

Instead of ignoring it, Ramirez said she confronted those who teased her, and they stopped. She didn’t let the conflict discourage her from pursuing a career in education.

“I believe it had to be difficult so I could value my education, and learn from my companeros that said racist things,” said Ramirez. “I always said that there was a person that didn’t like me, but there were a thousand that liked me a lot.”

Learning English fast through constant practice with Julio Cesar, Ramirez graduated from Woodland High School. She began volunteering at the Woodland Primary School, helping Spanish-speaking children learn English, and three months later the district hired her as a bilingual teacher’s aide.

Ramirez plans to continue her career in education. She’s working on becoming a citizen. She’s now studying for an Associate’s Degree at Lower Columbia College and wants to earn a bachelor’s degree at Washington State University Vancouver or St. Martin’s College.
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A chance to be of service to humanity

This ESOL teacher uses his own experiences to teach people English. He even uses Elvis Presley songs. DP

BY ANA MARIA TORO On a recent Thursday evening, a diverse group of immigrants hailing from Egypt to Ecuador to China showed up for English class on W. 14th St.

But instead of sitting as usual at desks and reviewing vocabulary lists, they leaned back on the pews of a former church, learned the lyrics to the Elvis Presley song "Love Me Tender" and sang it in unison.

This unorthodox ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) class is headed by Feliciano Jaime Atienza, a lively 52-year-old Filipino who has dedicated most of his life to teaching new arrivals how to speak English and thrive in a new land.

"I won't get rich with this profession," says Atienza, a Queens resident who arrived in the U.S. in 1985, "but I get so much from my students. They are like my children and I am teaching them to speak. I nurture them and help them grow."

He uses the city as a classroom, taking his students - many of them poor immigrants who work in the service industry - on field trips to the library, Central Park and even Macy's.

He's also a well of information for students dealing with problems at work or health concerns, putting them in touch with city agencies and plugging them into available services.

His goal is not only to teach his pupils the language, but to help them become adjusted to the city and to the people who live in it.

"Here is like a school of life," Atienza says in his small classroom in the basement of the Old Guadalupe Church.

The room is decorated with collages of family pictures brought in by the students and short essays about their personal histories - a whimsical touch from Atienza, who creates interactive art installations when he's not teaching.

"This is where you learn how to accept each other," he says.
His experiences teaching English in the refugee camps of his native Manila in the 1980s, as well as the turmoil in his own country, taught him the importance of acceptance between people from different backgrounds.
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Children of Immigrants Dominate the Olympics

33 of the U.S. Olympic athletes are immigrants, many more are the children of immigrants. From countries all around the world. DP

By Ruben Navarrette, Washington Post Writers Group Now that the flame has gone out on the Olympics in Beijing, it's worth taking a moment to applaud the U.S. Olympic team. Not only for dominating so many events and winning the most prizes overall -- 110 medals, 36 gold -- but also for winning the argument back home over the contributions of immigrants and their children.

The immigration debate has digressed from how to keep out the undocumented to how to keep out those who have documents as well. After all, the real concern is the changing culture, and millions of legal immigrants have helped spur some of those changes.

Still, immigrants don't come empty-handed. They bring their hopes for a better future for their children and a work ethic that often puts natives to shame. And they apply these things to a million different pursuits, including Olympic gold.

Thirty-three U.S. Olympic athletes for these games were immigrants, a number of others were the sons and daughters of immigrants.

Among the immigrants: Sudanese refugee and 1,500-meter runner Lopez Lamong, who served as the flag-bearer for the U.S. in the opening ceremony; beach volleyball player Phil Dalhausser, who was born in Switzerland but now lives in Ventura, Calif.; and gymnasts Nastia Liukin, whose parents brought her from Russia in 1992 and who now lives in Parker, Texas, and Alexander Artemev, who was born in the Soviet Union and now lives in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Children of immigrants included: gold-medal decathlete Bryan Clay of Kaneohe, Hawaii, whose mother immigrated from Japan; gymnast Raj Bhavsar of Houston, whose parents came from India; and Kevin Tan of Fremont, Calif., whose parents fled China for Taiwan and then California.

But for my money the best U.S. immigrant story of these games belonged to 21-year-old wrestler Henry Cejudo, all 5-feet-4 and 121 pounds of him. Cejudo, who was a long shot to win any medal in Beijing, won the gold in freestyle after defeating Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga. Cejudo celebrated by breaking into tears and -- after family members in the stands tossed him an American flag -- wrapping himself in Old Glory and parading around the arena.
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Americans needn’t worry about how country’s changing

The new Census report shows no cause for concern. High immigration will allow America to stay younger than European and Asian countries, even though all have an aging population. DP

By The Orange County Register "America's changes will be less than we think. We've already become a more open, dynamic country," says Dan Griswold, an immigration expert with the libertarian Cato Institute. "What will happen to America is what has already been happening to California, Texas, New York City, and other economically successful regions."

By many accounts, immigration has improved employment and productivity while increasing the flexibility of U.S. labor markets. According to Wall Street Journal writer Jason Riley, most immigrants assimilate quickly because they share American values of freedom, hard work, and democracy. Employment and homeownership - both good indications of assimilation - are up among immigrants. The 2000 census also reports that 91 percent of the second-generation and 97 percent of the third-generation immigrants speak English well. The gradual assimilation seen in the Hispanic population similarly occurred with the Germans and Irish in the 19th century and southeastern Europeans and Chinese in the 20th century. Like today's Hispanic immigrants, most of these immigrants were poor and unskilled. There is an argument that immigration strains social programs, but the root problem isn't immigration - it's the nanny state social programs themselves.

The aging population in the U.S. actually may constitute a bigger problem than immigration, given that among the white population those over 65 is expected to double. However, the Hispanic population will remain young and vital, with minorities expected to constitute a majority of 18-29 year olds by 2028. The increase in immigration and birth rate among Hispanics will actually slightly delay the Social Security crisis in the U.S.
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Heritage classes aim for preservation

These programs are helping high school students to study the language their family speaks at home. They probably speak it fluently, but can't read or write it well. This helps them retain it, and makes this a more bilingual or multilingual country. DP

By Carolyn McGough, Bruin reporter Summer sessions at UCLA bring a wide range of faces and ages to the university campus, including some high school students who wish to study and learn about their heritage.

UCLA hosted two six-week “heritage language” programs – Russian and Persian – both of which ended last week.

The programs invited high school students to the university to study their “heritage language.”

Heritage language is the language spoken fluently at home by someone who has little or no formal schooling in the language and therefore may have trouble reading and writing the language, said Olga Kagan, director of the UCLA Center for World Languages and the director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center.

Initially, a “Russian for Russian Speakers” course was created last year and was taught by Yelena Furman, a UCLA Russian language lecturer.

This year, Kagan and the center received funding to program a “Persian for Persian Speakers” course after a grant was received from the National Foreign Language Center, Kagan said.

The Persian language course is taught by Shervin Emami and Saeid Atoofi, both UCLA doctoral students from Iran.

The goal of the summer program is to encourage young United States immigrants to preserve and study their native language.

“Heritage learners or speakers of a language in addition to English have always been multiplying in this country, because it’s built on immigration and you come here with a different language if you immigrate,” Kagan said.

Just because the primary language is English in the U.S., it does not mean languages should be forgotten, she said.:
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Mpls. skyway art celebrates new immigrants

Look at this site to see this wonderful piece of art. DP MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A busy downtown Minneapolis skyway has been transformed into a celebration of Minnesota's newest immigrants.

The ''Speaking of Home'' public art project features 23 family photographs of immigrants and other new Minnesotans. The photos are printed on 10-by-13-foot sheets of white transparent fabric and installed consecutively in the skyway window frames.

Artist Nancy Ann Coyne collaborated with the latest Twin Cities residents to create the project. It's one of the official events celebrating Minnesota's 150th birthday.

The project is installed inside the 150-foot skyway connecting the IDS Center and Macy's department store. It's visible to pedestrians passing below on Nicollet Mall.

The display runs through October 31st.

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Speaking of Home:

Immigration Study: 'Second Generation' Has Edge

This recent study says "yes", immigrants are assimilating. DP

by Margot Adler In much of the debate over immigration, there is an underlying question: Are today's immigrants assimilating into the mainstream as easily as past generations?

The answer, at least in New York City, is an unqualified "yes," according to the results of a 10-year study involving more than 3,000 young men and women, most of them in their 20s.

John Mollenkopf, a professor at City University of New York and an author of the study, says that if you look at the children of immigrants, "the kids are doing well compared to their parents and also doing well compared to the native-born comparison groups."

The "second generation" project looked at five groups — Russians, Dominicans, South Americans, Chinese and West Indians — and compared them with U.S.-born whites, Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. Researchers found that most in the second generation were fluent in English and working in the mainstream economy. When they looked at economic and educational achievement, they found that West Indians were doing better, in general, than African-Americans; Dominicans were doing better than Puerto Ricans; and the Chinese and the Russians were doing as well as or better than native-born whites.

Because this is New York City and most study participants are the children of people who came to the United States 20 to 30 years ago, their parents either entered legally or found it relatively easy to obtain legal status even if they came illegally.

Legal immigration is more difficult today, and researchers note that this may well change the rate of assimilation.
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Immigrants clamor to learn

This class is another indication of how important it is to fund more ESL classes and how motivated the students are. DP

BY CHRISTINA M. WOODS, The Wichita Eagle The Indochinese Center wants to expand classes

The Wichita Indochinese Center needs experienced teachers for its growing English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, program.

Mohan Kambampati, the center's executive director, said ESOL classes could have expanded to a third location at Evergreen Neighborhood City Hall this year, but "we're having a problem finding good teachers."

Kambampati received a $15,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, which he said would pay for the Evergreen expansion.

The center also offered evening ESOL classes at the Colvin Neighborhood City Hall for the first time this year thanks to a $23,000 Kansas Health Foundation grant.

The teacher search coincides with the center's Aug. 26 to 28 enrollment period for fall classes, which start Sept. 3.

"They're so motivated," he said of students. "It's a pleasure for me to see these people walking in around 5:30 (p.m.) despite working very hard.

"It's the same thing of the morning classes. By 8:30 a.m., they're here to learn English."

Funding shortages prevented the Wichita Area Technical College from offering ESOL classes at Colvin, though the college still offers classes at its main campus. The grant allowed the Indochinese center to step in at Colvin.

"It's not just that they're learning English as a second language," said Debbie Nguyen, a community education coordinator and a Colvin supervisor. "But they're also learning about civics and government."
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Immigrants urged to report crimes

Let's hope the immigrant residents believe this, everyone will be safer. DP

By Jon Ruhlen - The Hutchinson News - LIBERAL - The Liberal Police Department wants victims and witnesses of crime to know they can call the police - regardless of residency documentation.

Liberal Police Chief Alan Sill said the department is trying to get out the message because "we want to assure people that we want to help them as victims and not be afraid of contacting us because of their resident status."

The police department wants to clear up questions and concerns that immigrants, both legal and illegal, may have about the police in the wake of recent immigration enforcement in southwest Kansas, Sill stated in a press release.

Although the department will assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement when asked, officers have no deportation authority and generally take no action related to deportations and enforcement status, the release states.

"We don't have the authority, and we don't have any state statutes that govern that," Sill said in a phone interview.

"We just want to get the message out to our citizens and to people traveling through Liberal - we definitely want to help them if they are the victim of a crime, but in order to do that we want them to come forward. We want to assure them that they should have no fear of coming forward because of resident status," Sill said.
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Born to Illegal Immigrants, Henry Cejudo Wins Gold for U.S.

A wonderful success story of an immigrant who worked hard all his young life and now has a gold medal for the USA. DP

Wall Street Journal American wrestler Henry Cejudo, the son of illegal immigrants from Mexico, won gold in the 121-pound freestyle final on Tuesday, before much of his family, but not his mother, Nelly Rico, who provided for him during a tough childhood.

“From California to New Mexico to Arizona, Henry Cejudo moved nearly 50 times as a child, and never slept alone in his own bed until given a bunk by USA Wrestling as a participant in the resident program at the U.S. Olympic training facility,” Mark Kiszla writes in the Denver Post. “The lonely athlete regularly awoke in the morning and ran 5 miles to attend Coronado High School, where despite his two state wrestling titles the hallways were filled with students he always considered strangers. So what kept Cejudo’s spirit strong? ‘My mom,’ he said. ‘We call her The Terminator. She’s a tough lady.’ ”

“Sometimes they moved downstairs in the same apartment building,” Jeff Jacobs writes in the Hartford Courant. “Sometimes Henry’s mom and his six siblings didn’t even bother unpacking their bags. Yet no matter where they were at the moment, no matter how many places they lived, Nelly Rico’s message didn’t change. ‘My mom would always say, “Whatever you want to do, you can do. You want to be an astronaut? You can be an astronaut. You want to be a doctor? You can be a doctor.” ‘ ”

So why wasn’t Ms. Rico watching on Tuesday? “Henry said she remained behind to care for her half-dozen nieces and nephews just as she once had cared for her own by working two jobs, cleaning toilets, doing factory work, carpentry, you name it,” Mr. Jacobs writes. “Minutes later, Henry’s older brother Alonzo let us in on a little secret. Nelly, 47, gets so nervous when her son wrestles she can’t help vomiting. This day would have overwhelmed her.”

The Cejudo cheering section made up for her absence. “Alonzo was part of a celebratory contingent so into Henry’s matches at the Agricultural University Gymnasium that security personnel had to come over ‘about 20 times’ to tell them the Chinese don’t get that raucous at sporting events,” Jerome Solomon writes in the Houston Chronicle. “Oh, but Americans do. The Cejudo Clan narrowly avoided being ejected, as there was plenty to celebrate watching Cejudo shock the world.”

U.S. farmers see how their employees live back in Mexico

These Wisconsin farmers are visiting the families of the immigrant workers who work for them. This gives everyone a much better understanding of their cultures. DP

As a backlash against immigrants grows, one group aims to build understanding by sending Midwestern farmers south of the border for 'cultural immersion.'

By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor San Juan Texhuacan, Mexico - On a recent day Stan Linder drives around town in a white Ford pickup truck, pointing out where corn is grown and where his friends live. Locals pile into the back to avoid the steep walk up dirt roads.

But he's nowhere near his own home, 2,000 miles north on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. He's in the remote mountains of Mexico as part of a cultural exchange to see how life is for the families of the migrant workers he employs.

As hostility to immigrants seems to be rising in the US – a recent survey by the Inter-American Development Bank shows that 68 percent of Latino immigrant respondents now say discrimination is a major problem, up from 37 percent in 2001 – former Wisconsin high school Spanish teacher Shaun Duvall is trying to boost cross-cultural understanding with 10-day "cultural immersion" trips for US farmers.

"That's the magic moment, when you get to connect two different worlds," Ms. Duvall says. "Many [locals] never dreamed someone in the US would care enough to come here."

While Mexican migrants have been heading to the US for decades, they didn't show up on farms in upstate New York or Wisconsin or Minnesota until relatively recently, generating the kind of culture shock that played out long ago in California or Texas. According to US census data, the overall population of Latinos in Wisconsin counties, for example, grew by 40 percent from 2000 to 2007.

It is not a trend expected to let up any time soon, as dairy farms have had to expand to become competitive at the same time that the population is declining, says Carl Duley, who teaches management classes to farmers and helped Duvall start the cultural exchange called Puentes/Bridges in the late 1990s.
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PBS set to unleash a new tutor

A new show on PBS, geared for young children, is taken from a book series. It will help all children, including ESL students, with their vocabulary and it will be fun at the same time. DP

'Martha Speaks' show will focus on vocabulary
By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff When local author Susan Meddaugh started publishing books about her dog in 1992, she didn't intend for the results to be educational. She was riffing on an idea posed by her then 7-year-old son: What would happen if Martha ate a bowl of alphabet soup?

But "Martha Speaks" and its sequels, a set of goofy, cartoon-inspired books about a mutt who develops the power of speech, hit the shelves as academics were beginning to trumpet vocabulary as an essential academic skill. The books grew popular as Boston's WGBH, fresh off the success of its "Arthur" cartoon, was trolling around for the next big preschool public television hit.

Now, as PBS strives to help the at-risk children who represent its public-service legacy - and appeal to affluent parents who want to give their children a leg up in school - it is making "Martha Speaks" its big hope for the fall. The half-hour show, which premieres nationwide Sept. 1, aims to teach 4- to 7-year-olds words as advanced as "communicate," "diminish," "courageous," and "concoct."

And with 40 half-hour episodes of "Martha" planned for this year and a second season in the works, producer WGBH hopes the new show will prove as popular as its top-rated "Curious George."

"Martha" joins a PBS lineup that is newly thick with reading shows. Letters and phonics play heavily in "Word World" and "Super Why," which premiered last fall, and in the longstanding "Between the Lions." "Sesame Street" now emphasizes reading. A new version of "Electric Company," set to air in January, will teach literacy skills to older children. "Word Girl," a year-old superhero spoof produced by Soup2Nuts, a Watertown animation firm, teaches vocabulary to 6- to 8-year-olds.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Classes enhance fluency, food bank

This is a good idea, these ESL classes take money or donations of food for the local food bank as payment. DP

By Andrea Damewood, The Register-Guard For Teodora Regino, learning English means a brighter future for her and her daughter. For Yuliya Drobyshevska, it means a shot at earning an economics degree from the University of Oregon.

Both moved to the United States recently, one from Mexico, the other from Ukraine. Without fluency in English, they and hundreds of their classmates at Downtown Languages probably would wind up working behind the scenes in low-paying service work — the first jobs slashed in a shaky economy, said Kim Knowlen, assistant director of the Eugene nonprofit center dedicated to teaching English and Spanish.

Many already have lost their livelihoods, she said.

But rather than let students give up their studies because they could no longer afford the $25 fee for the five-week class sessions, Downtown Languages directors became creative — eliminating the class fee if students contribute two food items to FOOD for Lane County.

“We’ve been mindful of the fact that FOOD for Lane County is having a difficult time,” Knowlen said of the local food bank, which recently reported its supplies are down more than 1 million pounds compared with this time last year.

“And students may not be able to afford the class right now. Five dollars a week can seem like a luxury with the cost of gas and food and getting laid off.”
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Some States Seek Integration Path for Immigrants

These governors recognize the important place of immigrants in their states. They are trying to help these immigrants fit in and become citizens. DP

By Miriam Jordan Behind the national debate over immigration, a handful of Democratic governors are mounting a quiet offensive to integrate, rather than repel, foreign newcomers.

The governors of Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington have signed orders that make immigrant integration a priority for their states, focusing on language, job and citizenship training as well as access to services, such as health care and public safety, for immigrants.

The federal government's failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform has prompted states and localities to come up with their own solutions to illegal immigration. Governors are taking divergent paths to cope with the record influx of immigrants, particularly those here illegally.

In March, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, a Republican, signed an executive order that empowers state police and correctional officers to enforce some immigration laws. It also requires companies that do business with the state to use an electronic system to verify whether job applicants are in the country legally and eligible to work. Georgia and Arizona also have recently passed anti-illegal immigrant laws.

The U.S. has absorbed a record number of immigrants since 1990, mainly from Latin America, Asia and Africa. The country is now home to about 38 million legal immigrants and 12 million undocumented immigrants. An additional 31 million people are children of immigrants.

Supporters of the executive orders to promote integration of foreign residents say the orders counter the hostile rhetoric of the immigration debate. "It's creating a political climate where immigrants are seen as a net benefit to the state," says Ngoan Le, a senior official at the Chicago Community Trust, a private foundation. "The state's highest officeholder is sending a message that his state welcomes immigrants."
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Wave of immigrants could be at polls

A million citizenship forms have been processed recently and hopefully these people are all planning to vote. DP

By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff Most immigrants who applied for US citizenship during a tidal wave of applications last year should be sworn in and eligible to vote by the November elections, Federal immigration authorities said yesterday.

A fee hike last summer led to a surge in naturalization applications - 1.4 million by the budget year that ended in September 2007, nearly double the typical amount. The increase triggered delays in processing times, but federal officials said yesterday that they will have completed more than 1 million naturalization applications by September, including most of those filed last summer.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes applications, typically approves the vast majority of applicants, rejecting 12 percent to 15 percent a year.

The agency's Boston office has already finished most of last summer's applications.

"We're doing much better than we had anticipated in our original projections," said spokesman Bill Wright. "It's very good progress and we hope to do even better."

Federal officials said they reduced the backlog by adding personnel and working extended hours. But advocates for immigrants warned that thousands of people across the United States still will not become citizens in time to vote.

"We are still very concerned that there will be large numbers of persons who about a year ago filed to be naturalized and have yet to go through that process," said C├ęsar Perales, president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, which sued the federal agency over the matter. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last week, but the organization plans to appeal.
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Out of many, one

A nice opinion piece about all the people who live in this country and make up America. DP

By Jodie Wankowski They were waiting in the food line, people from several different nationalities and areas. With them, they brought Old World customs and ways. Many languages could be heard, and spices of different ethnic dishes hung in the air.

Next to a man with a French surname was a lovely lady with Asian features. Children played together, each hailing from a different ethnic origin. Within the large building's walls, many from all corners of the Earth waited and mixed.

None came from the same place, but all were heading in the same direction. Out of different cultures, a singularly unique one would emerge — a culture that would become the mighty cornerstone of a fantastic nation.

Ellis Island has a long history. A small island off New York, it was home to various tribes of American Indians in the 1600s, a haven for Dutch oyster harvesters in the early 1700s and was privately owned by the Ellis family in the latter part of the 18th century. The family eventually sold the land to New York State after briefly inhabiting it. In 1808, New York State sold it to the federal government for $10,000.

America was the land of opportunity, a place dreams became reality. Its governing documents promised the gift of religious rights, freedom, liberty and life without tyranny to the world's oppressed. These things were unheard of then — and even to this day — in most other parts of the world.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Balanced Melting Pot blog

I just discovered this blog today. check it out and share your stories too.

Go to:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Influx brings Brazilian `bounce' to NYC suburb

A nice story, telling how much these immigrants from Brazil are adding to their new community in New York. DP

By JIM FITZGERALD | Associated Press Writer MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - It wouldn't take much to make police Commissioner David Chong a happy man. One Portuguese-speaking cop might do it.

It's just one sign of the impact Brazilians are having on this old suburban city just north of New York City, where 8 to 10 percent of the 72,000 people may be Brazilian.

"We really want to have someone here who can speak that language, who can really relate to that community," the commissioner says. "I would like a handful, but one would be a great start."

So Chong has launched a recruiting campaign, generating news stories in Portuguese-language newspapers and TV stations that reach the area's Brazilians.

It's difficult to know how many Brazilians live in the United States, since many are in the country illegally. Other small cities with large Brazilian populations include Danbury, Conn., and Framingham, Mass.

The influx in Mount Vernon is evident in the cluster of Brazilian-oriented shops and restaurants.

At a store called the Bradeli, shopkeeper Helio Martin, 46, sells Brazilian foods, perfumes and CDs. He also arranges airline tickets for trips to the old country and money transfers to help families back home. Born in the city of Belo Horizonte, Martin has been in the U.S. for 26 years and says, "I love Mount Vernon."

"Brazilians are very warm people. It is easy for us to get used to other backgrounds, other cultures," he says.
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Some Immigrants Face Long Waits to Become U.S. Citizens

People who apply for citizenship are still waiting years to be approved. This backlog must be taken care of. DP

By Jackie Best Martin Izuchukwu Okpareke applied for citizenship in 2004 because he wanted to be able to actively participate in his community and politics. He is still waiting to become a citizen.

The National Immigration Forum released a report Wednesday called "Out of Focus: The Hidden Crisis of the Latest Backlogs in Naturalization Processing." It looks at the problems that immigrants face when they try to become citizens.

Okpareke, a legal U.S. resident, fled an oppressive military government in Nigeria and lives in Kansas City, Mo. He is a refugee employment and training manager at a Jewish Vocational Service.

"Waiting this long makes me feel like an inferior individual," Okpareke, 41, said on a conference call Wednesday held by the National Immigration Forum. He said some of his clients have become citizens.

Okpareke said he has contacted U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out why his application is taking so long, and they say it is because of an FBI name check. He has also contacted the FBI but has gotten little response.

The report found that many applicants are being forced to wait months or years before obtaining citizenship. The wait has prevented some immigrants from advancing in their careers, reuniting with their families, traveling and voting.
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Classes aid immigrant students’ assimilation

An interesting article about ways to successfully teach English to immigrant children. And some of the challenges. DP

Overcoming language barriers more difficult in smaller districts

By Jessica Harding, Gazette Reporter When Evelyn Diaz, 8, raised her hand in class to read the directions to a question, she stopped when she reached the word “ate.”

Diaz, a second-grader at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, speaks fluent Spanish, but still struggled with English, which is why she was enrolled in Drew Coffey’s English as a Second Language class.

Coffey, undeterred by the girl’s inability to read the three-letter word, took the opportunity to educate the six other students in his class on the correct pronunciation of the word “ate.”

He wrote “late,” “gate” and “rate” on the blackboard, which the children had no trouble pronouncing. After being told to drop the first sound, Coffey went around the classroom successfully soliciting each student to pronounce the word “ate.”

Coffey, who teaches ESL for elementary school students, has been with the Schenectady School District for 10 years. While he would take a job anywhere, he said, he’s glad to be teaching in a large district.

“This is a tenured position, which is rare in most districts, and we have a lot of opportunities for professional development,” he said.

There are more than 25 different languages spoken by children in the Schenectady City School District. Most of Coffey’s second-graders speak Spanish as their native language, but he did have one student from Guyana.

Coffey isn’t allowed to speak any language in his classroom other than English so that he doesn’t leave out any students. Instead he uses pictures, games and even puppets to teach.
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Religion remains an immigrant’s lifeline

Practices differ in new world, but offer same connection

By Kathleen Moore, Gazette Reporter For some new immigrants entering the United States, the biggest shock is discovering that even their religion is subtly different.

Churches, synagogues and temples seemed to offer a taste of home in the overwhelming first months in their new country. But some don’t find much comfort there.

“For me, God doesn’t speak English,” said Olga Tapia. “No, that’s a joke. Mostly. But seriously, the thing you lose when you’re immersing in a new culture is your religious background, to worship God in your own language.”

For some new immigrants entering the United States, the biggest shock is discovering that even their religion is subtly different. Churches, synagogues and temples seemed to offer a taste of home in the overwhelming first months in their new country. But some don’t find much comfort there.

“For me, God doesn’t speak English,” said Olga Tapia. “No, that’s a joke. Mostly. But seriously, the thing you lose when you’re immersing in a new culture is your religious background, to worship God in your own language.”
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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Immigrants make it all work

Another story telling about the shortage of local workers and the need for immigrants and immigration. DP

Some industries depend on international recruiting efforts

By Jill Bryce, Sara Foss, Gazette Reporters CAPITAL REGION — When Marco Tomakin met his wife-to-be, El Bandalan, she had already signed a contract to become a nurse at Albany Medical Center. So he signed one, too.

The couple moved to Albany from the Philippines in 2003. They had both trained in government-run nursing schools in their home country, and the idea of making more money in the U.S. appealed to them. They weren’t alone.

Since 2002, 341 Filipino nurses have come to work at Albany Medical Center, and there are 250 Filipino nurses now on staff. This hasn’t happened by accident; the hospital has actively recruited nurses from the Philippines. It’s just one of Albany Medical Center’s strategies for dealing with a chronic, nationwide shortage in nurses, according to Greg McGarry, a spokesman for the hospital. “At any given time, we have 60 to 70 open positions,” he said.

Hospitals throughout the country have successfully recruited nurses from the Philippines, which is why Albany Medical Center decided to give it a try, McGarry said. “We were aware that in the Philippines there are a number of well-trained nurses looking for work,” he said. “They’re fluent in English. They assimilate quite readily. Most of them have adjusted well with our homegrown staff.”

Immigrants can be found working in almost every sector of the Capital Region’s labor force. Many of them occupy low-wage, low-skill jobs, but there’s another group of immigrants, one that’s highly educated and well-paid, who are recruited to work here by businesses and schools unable to find enough qualified Americans to fill their work force. Though only 5 percent of the upstate population is foreign born, about 20 percent of the professors in upstate universities are immigrants. In health care, the fastest growing sector of the upstate economy, immigrants make up 35 percent of physicians and surgeons. Immigrants also comprise 20 percent of computer software engineers.

The University at Albany aggressively recruits scientists from overseas.
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Fliers in Suffern aim to ease tension over immigrants

This group is trying to educate immigrants about what is and is not accepted in this country. Some are things that are fine in their country, but not here. DP

By Suzan Clarke • The Journal News In a bid to improve the perception of the village's Latino immigrant population amid tensions stirred up by a village plan to partner with federal immigration enforcement officials, a community group today will distribute fliers asking people to refrain from unlawful behavior.

Community Power - a group that provides information and educational outreach - will staff a table at the village's farmers market this afternoon where members will hand out fliers designed to sensitize the Latino immigrant community to key aspects of American society that, if not observed, could bring them to the attention of village police.

"The purpose of the flier is to educate our Hispanic community of the issues that are causing problems with the community, and basically, it's to educate about the customs that are different," said Frances Glick, the secretary of Community Power.

Glick, a Peruvian immigrant who owns Mateo Communications, a money service business on Lafayette Avenue in the village, said the fliers would address five points.

People will be advised to refrain from driving when they have had an alcoholic drink; buying or using fraudulent Social Security cards or driver's licenses, or other similar documents; riding bicycles on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the road; and gathering on the streets in large groups.

Glick said the flier also will advise men in particular that they should refrain from catcalling at women, as that action could be perceived as threatening or harassing by those who are not of their culture.

"With the Hispanic community, it's very common for people to say, oh, what beautiful legs or eyes or something, but women who do not understand … they think it is offensive," she said.
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