Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Workforce—Many Languages

English classes are helping employers and employees in many different ways, including accident prevention. DP

Many U.S. employers are investing in English classes to upgrade immigrant workers’ skills.

By Rita Zeidner

On a steamy July afternoon, Antonia Diaz makes her way to a worktable in the bowels of a dusty construction pit outside Washington, D.C., and heaves a circular saw onto a plywood sheet. With her eyes fixed on the wood, she painstakingly makes the first cut in her latest project––construction of a handrail for a dangerous open stairwell her co-workers use to move supplies.

“My work makes it safe for everyone,” she says in accented English. “Otherwise, someone could fall and break a foot or a leg. I’m so proud of what I do.”

It’s a claim she could not have made five years ago, when she immigrated to the United States from Honduras speaking only Spanish and not knowing a miter box from a whipsaw.

Diaz, a brawny one-time truck driver, landed a job as a laborer at Miller & Long, a Maryland construction company, shortly after arriving in the country. Within a few weeks, she began attending free English classes that the company offered to its mostly Spanish-speaking workers on Saturdays.

She also entered Miller & Long’s carpentry apprenticeship, where she was required to study textbooks and other technical materials available only in English. ›

“The teacher would say, ‘I’m sorry, guys, but this is the U.S. and we speak English,’ ” she recalls.

Three years later, her studies paid off. She passed her carpentry certification exam––offered only in English––and was promoted to Miller & Long’s safety team at nearly twice her starting salary. She began dating a co-worker who only speaks English. The couple is now raising their 2-year-old daughter.
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The spirit to help others lives in her

This woman, who moved here from Vietnam many years ago, is helping other immigrants learn English and also learn how to be Americans. DP

By Angie Tabor

While growing up in Phan Thiet, Vietnam, Kathy Varney would look at pictures in books of places she wanted to visit. On top of her list was the White House because it housed the president of the United States, and Florida with all its orange trees and sunny skies. She also vowed to see other places that captured her fancy. As she learned through books about the Seven Wonders of the World, she made a goal to one day visit them all.

At 15, the daughter of a construction worker began to learn to speak English and became involved in mission work by helping with her local Baptist church. “Mission workers were my role models,” she said. In her teens, she helped her community by doing such things as distributing rice and volunteering as a flood relief worker. All her life she knew she wanted to serve the community and help others any way possible.

After meeting a marrying and American soldier who was stationed in her country, Varney found herself willed into one of her dreams. At 21, she left her beautiful coastal town and moved to the United States.

She and her husband settled in California. Both wanted to do mission work while attending Golden Gate Seminary, she said. It was 1967 and the seminary wouldn't send them out on missions, they soon learned, because they were an interracial couple. Having an undeniable faith in God, she didn't allow such prejudice to set her back. She knew the time would come and she would move on.

Varney has always been a woman who enjoys activities and work. She started the Refugee Immigration Office in Roanoke in 1975. It began after she received a call from a woman who worked for a refugee office in Richmond and asked her if she could mentor a new Vietnamese family in the Roanoke area.

Varney jumped on the task and welcomed the new family. She also helped them learn to speak English, find an apartment and job.
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Deadline passes for Central American immigrants

The deadline to reapply for Temporary Protected Status is Tuesday and thousands of immigrants who qualify have not sent in their papers yet. They would then be subject to being deported. I hope their papers are in the mail.

by Matt O'Brien, Contra Costa Times

SAN PABLO, Calif. - Thousands of Salvadoran, Nicaraguan and Honduran immigrants could have their permission to live and work in the United States revoked next year after missing a Tuesday immigration deadline.

The deadline was to reapply for Temporary Protected Status, a special path to U.S. residency provided to certain Central Americans following a devastating 1998 hurricane and two back-to-back earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001.

"If they don't refile, they're not going to be able to keep on legally working," said Sharon Rummery, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

At the end of Friday, about 180,000 of the eligible 229,000 Salvadoran immigrants had applied nationwide, Rummery said. Almost 53,000 of 70,000 eligible Nicaraguans had applied and about 2,300 of 3,500 eligible Hondurans. Those who did not apply in time will likely lose their legal residency in March, making them deportable.

Applications were required to be postmarked by Tuesday, so many are likely to still be on the way.

In San Pablo, home to a sizable Salvadoran community, immigration consultant Ramon Cardona said he was flooded with last-minute requests for help with immigration documents.

"I had two sisters who brought their younger brother, dragged him here, to do it," said Cardona, himself an immigrant from El Salvador.

"He was just kind of adamant against paying the $420 fee. That's what's really hurting a lot of people. The fees really went up."

It is free to reapply for temporary protected status but costs $380 to renew a work permit and $80 for a fingerprint fee.

Congress enacted the special benefit in 1990 as a way of allowing temporary residence to those suffering from national disasters or civil unrest. Presently, it applies to six countries, three of them in Central America. Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras and Nicaragua in October 1998, and deadly earthquakes struck El Salvador in January and February 2001.

Turkish cultural center offers immigrants a taste of home

This cultural center helps new Turkish immigrants learn how to live here. There are so many differences, even seemingly small ones can be difficult. DP

By JENNIFER BHARGAVA, The Kansas City Star

The two businessmen leaned back in their wooden chairs, smiling contentedly.

Before them, a homemade feast was spread out on the conference table. Stuffed grape leaves, plump with rice and olive oil, gleamed next to a colorful cake. Potato bread had been placed on every plate, with steaming cups of tea accompanying each slice.

One man cradled a small stringed instrument and strummed a mournful folk song.

It was as if they had never left Turkey. Mission accomplished.

Fatih Ozcan and Murat Tatli spent the chilly December evening at their new Raindrop Turkish House cultural center in Lenexa, hoping to smooth over a few details before it officially opens in February.

The men — familiar faces in the Kansas City area’s Turkish community — conceived the idea for the center a year ago, hoping to create a home away from home for Turkish immigrants.

After months finding a location and renovating it, their dream came true in September when Eurasian immigrants began slipping through the center’s doors.

“The United States is a real challenge for newcomers,” said Tatli, who heads the Kansas City branch of the Raindrop Turkish House, a charity organization. “It can take two to three months to adjust because you’re a fish out of water.

“And the smallest differences can create huge problems. The Turkish center helps people adjust.”
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Highline Community College gives immigrants an assist with job credentials

More than 1.3 million immigrants are working here at unskilled jobs, yet were highly trained and educated in their native countries. This college is helping some of them to update their credentials. We need every one of them working in their professions, especially since many of them were nurses and doctors. DP

Immigrant doctors driving taxicabs or dentists working in construction can get help through a new center at Highline Community College that provides guidance to foreign-trained health-care professionals trying to get their careers back on track.

By Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times staff reporter

For more than 10 years — in private practice and later for the national government — Dr. Rayna Aguila cared for pregnant women and their unborn babies in her native El Salvador.

She counseled families struggling with domestic violence and tried to teach people — rich and poor — how to protect themselves against disease.

"My work involved every aspect of community care," she said in heavily accented English.

When she came to the U.S. nearly seven years ago, she'd hoped to work again as a health professional. But, unable to speak much English, Aguila ended up taking whatever job she could find to help support her family, including waiting tables and cashiering in grocery stores.

In April, she started down a path she hopes will enable her once again to use her medical training. She is among some 70 Puget Sound-area immigrants receiving guidance through a new program at Highline Community College that helps foreign-born and -educated health professionals navigate the state's credentialing process.

Their stories aren't unique. Across the country, doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers wash floors and drive taxicabs to make a living — unable to transcend the language barriers and credentialing rules needed to practice here in the United States.

A recent study by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found more than 1.3 million such immigrants are doing unskilled jobs beneath their levels of education and training.
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Immigrant assimilation critical, report finds

The Task Force on New Americans has finished their report and decided what we all thought was obvious; assimilation is very important and we must integrate immigrants into American society. DP

By Stephen Wall, Staff Writer

As the United States becomes more diverse, a greater effort must be made to integrate immigrants into American society, according to a new report by a federal task force.

The steady rise in the foreign-born population and shifting demographic patterns make it essential for the country to embark on a renewed "Americanization" movement to preserve social unity, the report states.

President Bush created The Task Force on New Americans in 2006. The task force, which included members from 20 federal agencies, delivered the report to Bush this month. The 67-page document provides recommendations to strengthen immigrant-integration efforts across the United States.

"The task force believes that immigrants do generally assimilate in the United States," said Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Office of Citizenship. "But trends show government can do more to help newcomers learn English, learn about America and promote integration across our nation."

The report, "Building an Americanization Movement for the 21st Century," recommends enhanced English language education for immigrant adults, including a focus on electronic learning and distance learning.

It also calls on the federal government to work more closely with the private sector and community-based organizations to promote language and civics programs.

The need for increased assimilation efforts has become stronger because of the rapid
growth in the immigrant population over the past 40 years, according to the report.

Between 1966 and 2008, the U.S. population grew from 200 million to more than 300 million. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children accounted for 55 percent of that growth.
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Exhibit tells story of immigrants from Dominican Republic

This new exhibit in NYC, called "Dominicans in New York", shows the story of this group of immigrants. A very important part of our country. DP

By Marietta Homayonpour, Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- A statue of Juan Pablo Duarte, the founding father of the Dominican Republic, stands at Avenue of the Americas and Canal Street in Manhattan thanks to the effort of immigrants like Juan Paulino.

The story of Paulino, who came from the Dominican Republic to New York in 1962, is one of several highlighted in an exhibit that runs through Jan. 30 at the Dominican Studies Institute of the City University of New York.

Called "Dominicans in New York," the exhibit features some of the thousands of photos and documents in the institute's archives. "The exhibit is a glimpse into our collection," said Idilio Gracia Pena, the institute's chief archivist said.

At nearly 700,000 people, the largest foreign-born population in New York City comes from the Dominican Republic, according to Sarah Aponte, head of the institute's library. In the United States there are 1.4 million people from the Dominican Republic, a nation in the Caribbean that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

A significant number of Dominicans settled in Connecticut, including the Danbury area. "In the 1990s," Dominican Studies Institute director Ramona Hernandez said, "there was a movement of Dominicans from New York City to other states. The New England corridor was a natural path."

U.S. Census numbers show in 1990 there were 789 Dominicans in Danbury and by 2000 that number had nearly tripled to 2,033.

On a much smaller scale, surrounding towns also increased their population from the Dominican Republic. New Milford went from 10 Dominicans in 1990 to 32 in 2000. Bethel went from zero to 38.

One of those Dominican immigrants is Elliette Matos, who came from her native country to Stamford 11 years ago and moved to Bethel three years later. She started a Spanish language newspaper and owns a bead store in Danbury called Bjewelme.
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Burmese immigrants celebrate Karen New Year

These Burmese immigrants in N. Carolina celebrated their New Year Day last week. It is the beginning of 2748 for them. DP

By Matt Tessnear, Sun Journal

With cultural dances between bamboo poles, observation of the national flag and conversations about unity, several hundred people celebrated the Karen New Year on Saturday at First Baptist Church on Middle Street.

Many of the people, mostly refugees from the Karen state in Myanmar (previously Burma), wore colorful headbands, robes and dresses for the celebration. All of them bowed their heads in unison to show respect of the red, blue and white Karen flag. Saturday marked the first day of the Karen New Year, said Per Htoo, one of the speakers at the celebration.

In the 1930s, Karen officials decided that the origin of the culture began in 739 B.C., when the people finished a period of migration to the land now known as Myanmar. The Karen people celebrated their first national New Year Day on Dec. 21, 1938. Saturday's celebration was the beginning of the Karen year 2748.

Because of government oppression over the last 50 years, Karen people left Burma and lived in Thailand refugee camps for as many as 20 years. Interfaith Refugee Ministries, the New Bern branch of a national voluntary agency that works with the U.S. government, has helped many of the Burmese people move to New Bern. The Karen people first celebrated their New Year in New Bern three years ago at the Farmer's Market. Last year, the celebration was at Christ Episcopal Church, said Kyaw Zin, who has lived in New Bern since 2000.

"Dancing maintains our culture," Zin said. "All of this maintains our culture. We try to make it wider each year. Only 10 people came the first time. As more Karen come, our culture is more organized here."
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Boy Scouts see Hispanics as key to boosting ranks

20% of the children here are Hispanic but only 3% are Scouts. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are looking at these children to become new members. DP


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — As it prepares to turn 100, the Boy Scouts of America is honing its survival skills for what might be its biggest test yet: drawing Hispanics into its declining — and mostly white — ranks.

"We either are going to figure out how to make Scouting the most exciting, dynamic organization for Hispanic kids, or we're going to be out of business," said Rick Cronk, former national president of the Boy Scouts, and chairman of the World Scout Committee.

The venerable Scouts remains the United States' largest youth organization, with 2.8 million children and youths, nearly all of them boys. But that is nearly half its peak membership, reached in 1972.

Its rolls took hits through the 1980s and '90s over a still-standing ban on gay or atheist leaders, and scandals surrounding inflated membership numbers. In addition, teenagers raised on TV and shoot-'em-up games had less use for learning to build a campfire or memorize the Scout oath.

The country changed too. One in five children under 18 is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census. But they make up only 3 percent of Scouts.

Cronk made Hispanic outreach a focus after he realized that just translating brochures into Spanish, or combining Cub Scouting with soccer, was not enough to meet the goal of doubling Hispanic membership by the group's centennial in 2010.
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A bridge to their futures

These immigrant women get together at the Madres (Mothers') Project meetings. They socialize, learn about their new culture, learn how to live here happily. DP

By Julia Scott, San Mateo County Times

They sang "Feliz Navidad" and decorated small, potted Christmas trees with their children, cutting hearts out of construction paper and adding words of love, prosperity and hope.

The simple evening of holiday cheer meant a lot to the Mexican women missing their families back home at Christmastime, both as an inoculation against the despair that they often experience in the darkest days of winter and an excuse to share a laugh with their children.

The joys of friendship, community and family — sometimes just the experience of joy — are often elusive in the lives of the immigrant women who live and work in the fields of Pescadero alongside their husbands, many of whom are out of work or back in Mexico at this time of year.

One night they took time to breathe, reflect and celebrate as part of the Madres (Mothers') Project, courtesy of local nonprofit Puente de la Costa Sur (Bridge to the South Coast).

"I get so focused working all day, and it's good to get a distraction," said Maricella Lopez, adding an ornament of brightly painted berries to the tree she would bring home to her four children later that night.

The monthly Madres meetings brought her together in mutual support with other families — they rarely get a chance to socialize, living as they do in crowded trailers on ranches miles away from each other.

"There's more confidence in yourself as you get to know other people,"

Lopez said. "I've learned to be a better mother and that we should treat our kids the best we can."

Though packaged as an opportunity to socialize and create decorations around important Mexican holidays — the mothers also made their own Nativity scenes from scratch this year — the Madres Project is also an advanced form of family social work and group therapy.
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Julie Erfle: Immigration reform crusader

This woman, whose police officer husband was killed by an illegal immigrant, is working for immigration reform. She says that reform and understanding are needed, so these deaths can stop. DP

by Casey Newton, The Arizona Republic

A year after her husband's death, Julie Erfle is working to ensure he did not die in vain.

One Thursday in May, amid a heated battle over immigration that had divided Phoenix, she appeared at a press conference urging compassion.

"We need comprehensive immigration reform that puts safety and humanity on an equal footing," Erfle told a room full of journalists, police and city officials. "We cannot have one without the other."

Just eight months earlier, Erfle's husband, Phoenix police Officer Nick Erfle, had been shot and killed by an illegal immigrant.

Nick Erfle's name became a rallying cry among those who believed Phoenix was not doing enough to enforce immigration laws.

And now his widow was advocating understanding.

Erfle, 34, has spent the past year taking the next steps in her effort to bring meaning to her husband's death. In doing so, Erfle says, she has taken steps toward peace.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Church supports American dream through language

This story shows how much immigrants want to learn English. And they are learning conversational English that will help them at work and in their daily lives. DP

By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer

On Sunday, Javier Carranza sang "Jingle Bells" for the first time.

Carranza sang the traditional carol loudly and with enthusiasm, following along to words printed on the sheet of paper in front of him. Carranza, 45, came to the United States from Peru seven years ago. He came to the U.S., leaving behind his wife and three children, to find work. He now works as a landscaper, in addition to other odd jobs, but right now, his most important job is learning to speak English.

"It isn't that difficult to me to learn English," Carranza said. "I like coming to this church for these classes because we have a good teacher."

For the past five weeks Carranza and others have been meeting in the basement of the Calvin Reformed Church on Lexington Avenue to participate in an English class.

The English classes began the first week of December but the idea to hold them date back to early fall when Gail Deaver, a congregant, and Rev. Ervin Betts, passed of the Calvin Reformed Church, passed the day laborers crowding together along the bridge on Ely Avenue waiting for work each Sunday on their way to church.

Each time Betts Deaver passed them Betts would say to Deaver, "You're an English teacher. You should teach them English."

It was true; Deaver had taught English, poetry and literature, but she didn't think she had the skills to teach English as a second language. Then she saw a brochure from Norwalk Community College describing a methods course for teaching English as a second language.

"Erv says that God directed by eye to that course in the catalog," Deaver said.

Deaver and Betts signed up for the course and began to prepare materials for teaching English. Deaver had the advantage of knowing Spanish from the time she spent living in Venezuela, but the question remained: How would Deaver and Betts get students to come to the class?
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Area Immigrants Go Home for Christmas Only in Their Dreams

Many immigrants are not able to go home for the holidays this year. The economic problems have canceled those trips and that, in turn, has hurt the travel industry. DP

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Staff Writer

A year ago, Yunis Sandivar's travel agency in Arlington County was doing a brisk business in round-trip holiday tickets to Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador. This season, she says, those ticket sales have fallen by 40 percent compared with last December, and a surprising number of customers are buying one-way tickets home -- temporarily giving up on the U.S. economy after years of legal residency.

"Normally at this time, we are full of people, but just look around. The office is empty. We would not survive except for the one-way tickets," Sandivar said. "Our community is facing a very crude reality right now. People have lost their houses, their jobs, their businesses. They are not going home to see their families -- they are going home until the situation here improves. It is going to be a very sad Christmas."

Among the estimated half-million Latin American immigrants in the Washington region, Christmas has long been a season of sentimental and physical reconnection. Extended families are separated by relatively short distances, united by Christian traditions and accustomed to exchanging gifts -- shipped by Hispanic-owned courier services -- including electric appliances and children's party clothes.

This year, however, the area's Latino communities have been hit hard by the national economic slump, with the construction trade devastated by the financial crisis, service industries laying off workers and immigrant small-businesses owners hurt because their customers are without work.

As a result, Latino families across the economic spectrum are scaling back their plans for traveling or sending elaborate gift packages to their home countries.
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Sharing family histories, comfort in a new world

Elderly Holocaust survivors meet every month to sing and talk about their lives. DP

By Andreae Downs, Globe Correspondent

They were there to sing and socialize. But despite long memories, the dozen elderly immigrants weren't there to share many of them.

Instead, they talked about the happier times - before the Holocaust wiped out contemporaries and connections that would otherwise have populated their lives here in America.

"So, where were you born?" coordinator Ellen Krechmer asked. "How many languages do you speak?"

Besides English: Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew. Some Polish, Ukrainian, German. What conversation passed among them was as often in Russian as in English.

"Am Israel Chai!" they sang, their voices hardly rocking the rafters at 100 Centre St., space donated by Hebrew Senior Life. The Cafe Hakalah (Hebrew for "easing," as in a burden) meets every month, usually on a Wednesday, and participants come from all the Boston suburbs.

"A lot of survivors live in Coolidge Corner," said Ellen Ogintz Fishman, director of Schechter Holocaust Services at Jewish Family & Children's Services, which funds the cafe. "The hope is they will socialize outside of Cafe Hakalah."

Stephan and Paulina Fedoruk, for instance, are driven in from Stoneham, where they care for their grandchildren and teach them a little Russian. Transportation and refreshments are provided by Generations After, an organization of the children of survivors.
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Hands Across the World: Helping for 5 years

This program started by helping immigrants learn English, now it has expanded to help families learn our culture and how to live here. Each family has different needs and this program helps each one of them. DP

By TaLeiza Calloway

Five years ago, Hands Across the World began with the intent to help immigrants learn English and adapt to American culture. Over the years, the nonprofit organization has blossomed into a program that offers much more.

“It has taken us five years to shape the curriculum and become an integral program,” co-founder Brianda Cediel said. “I believe that this is one of the most important programs in our community.”

Hands Across the World serves as the first contact for many immigrants and refugees when they arrive in St. Cloud. Through classes and training, the program helps families survive after arrival. It has helped 160 new families this year and more than 750 families total, she said.

It has taken a long time to build the program because they take the time to meet all participants and address their needs, Cediel said. From knocking on doors and visiting with families to monthly sessions on a variety of issues, the needs of participants are a priority.

“This is a community-based program. Each need is different,” Cediel said. “Each person is one world — one culture.”

The merging of cultures enriches the program, and that diversity is evident among the students and staff.

About eight volunteers help with Hands Across the World programs.

They come from countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Somalia and Togo.

“The volunteers are very committed,” Cediel said.

Sister Antonia (Tonie) Rausch, co-founder of the program, remembers the first winter for her Somali students in the program. They wore sandals in the snow.

Now, they teach each other about dressing warm, she said.
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Federal Task Force Calls for an Americanization Movement for the 21st Century

Read the full report on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website site.

Federal Task Force Calls for an Americanization Movement for the 21st Century

Makes Recommendations to Strengthen Immigrant Integration

Task force: U.S. needs Americanization plan

A federal task force has shown how important it is to integrate immigrants and help them assimilate, learning about our history and learning English. DP

By Eunice Moscoso

The United States must embark on an aggressive effort to integrate immigrants, including teaching them English and US. history, a federal task force recommended Thursday.

If this “Americanization” fails, the nation could see major problems in 20 or 30 years, with foreign-born populations detached from the larger society and engaging in anti-social behavior, said Alfonso Aguilar, who heads the U.S. Office of Citizenship.

Aguilar compared the potential strife to what is occurring in some Western European countries where foreign-born populations do not feel part of the larger society and are not accepted by many as full citizens.

“We should not be naive and assume that the assimilation process is going to happen automatically,” Aguilar said, at a press conference.

The task force recommends that the federal government take a leadership role in an “Americanization movement,” but also says that states, local governments, non-profit groups and the private sector should play a key part.

The report strongly emphasizes that immigrants must learn English in order to fully integrate into American society.

Aguilar said that immigrants currently want to learn English but that many cannot find classes.

He said the report is not recommending “an ugly, English-only approach,” but “a friendly, pro-active literary effort.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Companion Seeks Stories Detailing Immigrant Experience

This magazine is looking for short articles from immigrants, about their experiences moving to this country. DP

by The Evangelical Covenant Church

CHICAGO, IL (December 17, 2008) - The Covenant Companion is looking for writers from within the Evangelical Covenant Church to submit articles about their lives as immigrants to North America.

The essays will be published in an upcoming issue focusing on immigrant experience, says Cathy Norman Peterson, features editor of the award-winning magazine.

The essays should address questions such as, “What is it like to live as an immigrant in this country?” “Were you welcomed when you arrived?” “What has the assimilation process involved?” Peterson says. “We are looking for personal experiences, including specific stories, from a range of ethnicities.”

Essays should be no more than 500 words. All submissions must be received by January 4. Please direct submissions to Covenant Communications.

The Covenant Companion consistently is listed among the top denominational magazines in the country as part of the Best of the Christian Press competition held annually by Associated Church Press.
Copyright © 2008 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

Minnesota Catholics to observe 'Immigration Sunday'

On the Feast of the Epiphany, Minnesota Catholics will observe a day of awareness and compassion for immigrants in our country. More people doing this might hurry immigration reform along, something has to. DP

Minnesota's Catholic bishops hope the Jan. 4 event will raise awareness of "outdated" U.S. policy on immigrants.


Calling for "compassionate dialogue" on immigration reform, the Minnesota Catholic Conference announced that Jan. 4 will be "Immigration Sunday" in the state's parishes.

The conference, the public policy voice of the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota, made the announcement Tuesday to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on the Swift and Co. meatpacking plant in Worthington. The conference said that fallout from that raid and others has had "a devastating impact on immigrant families and our rural communities."

Jan. 4 was chosen for Immigration Sunday because it coincides with the Feast of Epiphany, said Sister Anna Marie Reha, director of the Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of New Ulm. "That feast celebrates the unity of being one human family. This is a chance to recognize and celebrate the gifts and benefits immigrants share with us."

The conference also hopes the day's events will raise awareness that "the immigration policy is outdated and the system is broken," said Bishop Bernard Harrington of the Diocese of Winona. He cited cases of immigrants in the Worthington raid being whisked away without even being able to say goodbye to their children.

"We need to be aware of the hardships and injustices happening right here in our own community," he said.

Although calling for reform, the Jan. 4 activities are not intended to advocate for specific actions, said Kevin Appleby, director of migration and refugee policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"That's something that the politicians need to take care of," he said. "There are Catholics on both political sides of the immigration issues, but I think all Catholics agree that we want this solved in a compassionate way."

Illegal immigrants Going Home, Endangering U.S. Labor Markets

This report shows how much our financial problems are affecting illegal residents and eventually will affect our whole economy as it starts to improve again. DP

The Center for Immigration Studies was the first to note that undocumented immigrants were leaving the United States.

By Alfonso Chardy
McClatchy Newspapers (

MIAMI (MCT) - Malaquias Gaspar left his farm village in southern Mexico when the economy soured in the mid-1990s. He headed north illegally and found the proverbial better opportunity in South Florida, where he made a decent living by picking fruit and building homes.

But the U.S. economic crisis has disrupted his life and the lives of countless other illegal immigrants who are now planning to leave or have already left.

Gaspar recently returned to Zimatlan de Alvarez in Oaxaca state, primarily to care for his ailing mother -- but also to plan for the future should the economy worsen in South Miami-Dade County, where his wife and four children remain.

"If we can't feed our children, we'll come back," said Gaspar, 40, as he sat at his family home -- upgraded with money he had sent from South Florida.

Gaspar is among millions of undocumented immigrants facing new challenges brought on by slim prospects for legalization, more aggressive federal enforcement and a worsening economy. Now, fewer immigrants are caught while trekking through the dangerous Sonoran Desert or risking their lives aboard makeshift boats in the Caribbean, indicating that fewer are trying. Those who make it through can find themselves on one of several daily federal charter flights that return deportees.

The ripple effects are already being felt. Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean report a reduction in remittances -- money sent home from the United States. That money is critical to the survival of families and the success of local civic projects. Border communities that once thrived as way stations for those heading north are now little more than ghost towns.

Even on the tiny Bahamian island of Bimini, long a hotbed of eager smugglers willing to transport human cargo to South Florida, the mood is grim.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Settlement opens up amnesty for tens of thousands of immigrants

People who came here in the 1980s should check on this, they may be eligible for citizenship. DP

Many who entered the United States on valid visas but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988 are eligible for the amnesty offered under the 1986 immigration reform law.

By Teresa Watanabe, Times staff writer

For two decades, Anaheim businessman Erkan Aydin has taken on a task unimaginable for most immigrants like himself: trying to convince the U.S. government that he was here illegally.

Aydin, 50, arrived in the United States from his native Turkey with a valid student visa in 1981, but fell out of legal status when he failed to enroll in school, he said.

The customer service representative has a powerful reason why he wants to be considered an illegal immigrant. It would make him eligible for the amnesty offered to 2.7 million illegal immigrants under the 1986 immigration reform law.

Thanks to a recent legal settlement, the chance to apply for amnesty is finally open to Aydin and tens of thousands of others who entered the country on a valid visa but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988. The settlement, approved this fall by a U.S. district court in Washington state, stems from a class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Peter Schey originally on behalf of an immigrant assistance program of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

"I have been born again, like a new baby," Aydin said last week in his Anaheim car dealership office. "I will start a beautiful life in this beautiful country."

The landmark reform law offered a one-time amnesty to immigrants who were in the United States unlawfully from before 1982 to about 1988.

The settlement marks Schey's third and final class-action lawsuit over the 1986 amnesty law. The previous lawsuits, both settled in 2003, resulted in more than 150,000 immigrants being allowed to apply for amnesty
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Recession hits immigrants’ businesses especially hard

Since so many immigrant businesses have their customer base from their own immigrant group, the recent slowdown and layoffs has hit them harder than other businesses. DP

By MALCOLM GARCIA, The Kansas City Star

On a Thursday evening, Cabdul Barrow sits in the dimly lit Somali restaurant and waits for customers.

Usually at this hour at Towfiq Restaurant in Kansas City’s Northeast area, African immigrants who work late shifts come in for a meal of goat meat and rice or just a cup of green tea.

These days, the restaurant is quiet.

“Kenyans, Sudanese, Ugandans, they all come here,” said Barrow, 42. “But there have been a lot of layoffs, and that’s why business is slow.”

In this recession, immigrant business owners and operators such as Barrow, a native of Somalia, face the challenge of expanding their customer bases beyond their communities to stay afloat.

The Northeast area — bounded by the Paseo and Interstate 435, and Gladstone Boulevard and Truman Road — has seen the bulk of the Kansas City area’s new immigrants and refugees, including families from Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The city’s 5,000 or so Somalis make up one of the metropolitan area’s largest refugee populations. Businesses such as Towfiq, near the corner of Brooklyn and Lexington avenues, are the heart of the Somali community.

“When they open their own business, most of their products are geared toward their community,” said Martin Okpareke, a refugee employment training manager at Jewish Vocational Services, which has resettled 650 refugees in the last three years, including 487 in the Northeast area.
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Dan Haifley, Our Ocean Backyard: Immigrants built our fishing heritage

An interesting piece telling all the groups of immigrants who developed the fisheries on the CA coast. DP

By Dan Haifley, executive director of O'Neill Sea Odyssey

My last column discussed the gift the Ohlones gave subsequent generations on the Central Coast: the industry and culture of fishing. But the favor was not well-returned. Contact with earlier European arrivals was fatal to this peaceful society.

By the 1800s, fishing was taken up by subsequent immigrant communities. While the Ohlones had fished from land, their successors took to the sea to seek Dungeness crab, salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, rockfish and abalone.

Fishing became such an active industry that the California Legislature approved the Fish and Game Act in 1852. In 1860, the act was used to control trout fishing and in 1870, a new Board of Fish Commissioners required fish ladders at state dams to help stem their losses. Fishing licenses were required by 1900 and nine years later, the state Department of Fish and Game came into existence. Who brought this newly regulated industry to life?

In his book "Chinese Gold," historian and author Sandy Lydon describes a fishing trade among Chinese immigrants that thrived in the 1800s in an area roughly between Ano Nuevo and Point Sur. In 1814, Chinese immigrants were a key part of the Monterey Peninsula's expansion, and salmon was their primary target.

China Point in Point Lobos was packed with homes on stilts with flat-bottomed boats tied to them. Over 600 Chinese fishermen were reportedly active in the area by 1853 and commercial fishing colonies existed

in other areas, including Santa Cruz. In his book, Lydon recounts the practical design of Chinese boats and the sophisticated fishing techniques their owners used.
The Chinese in Monterey were frequently forced to fish for squid at night to avoid conflicts with other trawlers. They were often accused of depleting fisheries; racial stereotypes and political pressures were likely the motivation behind these charges.

Portuguese whalers came to the region in the 1850s, but the advent of kerosene made whale oil and the whaling trade less profitable. They joined a fishing industry that grew rapidly in the late 1800s. In Monterey, Italian fishermen introduced the "lampra net" from Sicily in the early 1900s. Its speed and strength enabled larger volumes of fish to be caught at once. Some credit this innovation with the ascension of the sardine business. Japanese fishermen in Monterey pioneered abalone harvesting in the late 1890s, and their fishing and canning techniques earned them a place in the economic life of Cannery Row. Monterey came to be known as the sardine capital after the first packing plant was built in 1900. Within a few years, boats were hauling 25 tons a night to 18 canneries.

In the 1870s, hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish were being shipped out of Santa Cruz by people with last names like Canepa and Carniglia. Cottardo Stagnaro arrived in Santa Cruz from Italy around 1874 and with his family he established a successful fishing company, as did John and Sunday Faraola in 1902 on Santa Cruz' railroad wharf. Italian fishing families suffered economically during World War II when they were excluded from doing business in coastal areas.

Historically, fisheries were productive, but they also experienced natural cycles, which, most famously in the case of sardines, led to a collapse. More recently, salmon season was closed in Central California, which is devastating a key slice of the region's economy.

Today, the fishing industry is clearly under siege, but a recent study estimates that it still adds more than $150 million a year to our economy. While the future of the industry is uncertain, one fact will remain: The Central Coast's history, culture and economy were built on fishing, starting with the Ohlones.

Neto's Tucson by Ernesto Portillo Jr. : His drive to read, write transcended humble border roots

The well-known Chicano author, Miguel Méndez, tells his life story. Over 78 years living on the U.S.-Mexico border gives him a unique perspective in the immigrant experience. DP

Neto's Tucson by Ernesto Portillo Jr.

In the world of Miguel Méndez, storytelling is not linear. There are multiple intersections, progressions and digressions. Inside is outside, and distortions are simplified.

It's a literary world created over 78 years living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, filled with complexities to the outsider but clear to Méndez's eyes and ears.
An author and professor emeritus of Spanish at the University of Arizona, Méndez is cited in numerous anthologies of Latino and Chicano literature.

His 1974 "Peregrinos de Aztlán,"later translated as "Pilgrims in Aztlán," is considered a seminal work in Chicano literature, a genre rooted in the Mexican-American immigrant experience. He has authored about 40 books and essays, including his 1996 autobiography, "Entre letras y ladrillos," translated as "From Labor to Letters."

Méndez has done all this and more with a fifth-grade education.

"I read as many books as I could. My house was filled with books," said Méndez.
We talked in his small UA office, which he shares with junior professors, in the basement of the UA's Modern Languages Building. The office, with its institutional metal desks and chairs, belies the body of work Méndez has created since his 1974 landmark.

Méndez, who was born in Bisbee, has chronicled border life through his novels, essays, short stories and poetry. He continues to pore through his history and the stories of Yaquis, Anglos, Mexicans, pachucos, blue-collar workers, bosses, women and men.

"I can't stop writing," he said, while telling me several stories of his life.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Y-Act: Mexican-American Students Fight for Educational Equity

Youth Action Changes Things (Y-ACT) is a group for young Mexican-Americans and recent immigrants. The volunteers are helping parents and students find ways to advocate for themselves and their kids. They are helping students get good advice and stay in school, often their school guidance counselors are untrained and giving bad advice. DP

by Eleanor Bader

When Kara Gagnon was a high school senior in Dalton, Massachusetts, she didn’t give much thought to the fact that there were four guidance counselors for the 140 students in her graduating class. But moving from suburban Dalton to Brooklyn made her realize how privileged she and her peers were.

Gagnon is an AmeriCorp/VISTA volunteer at Youth Action Changes Things, an 18-month-old Sunset Park group for young Mexican-Americans and recent immigrants. She says that she is astounded and appalled by the misinformation and racism she sees students facing in Brooklyn schools.

“There’s just general ignorance,” the 23-year-old notes. “For example, the counselors don’t always know much about immigration laws: they can’t answer the students’ questions. Some of the girls think that if they have a baby they’ll become legal so they get pregnant only to find out that this doesn’t help their status.”

Gagnon says that the role of guidance counselors is key to not only help students resolve personal problems, but in keeping them on track to complete high school as well as formulate post-secondary plans. Some of Brooklyn’s 58 high schools have an array of support services from social workers and guidance counselors to college advisors and tutors, but some are seriously understaffed.
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California Helping Poor and Immigrants Open and Maintain Bank Accounts

California wants to get 100,000 poor and immigrant residents to open bank account. Many of these people don't trust banks and because they don't have bank accounts, can't qualify to get many other financial services. DP


LOS ANGELES — California is starting what banking experts call the nation’s largest, most ambitious effort by a state government to enable people, especially immigrants and the poor, to open and maintain bank accounts.

The program, Bank on California, which is to be announced Friday in Sacramento, will seek to create 100,000 accounts over two years among residents here and in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Fresno. It is based on a two-year trial in San Francisco, where 31,000 accounts were opened by first-time users.

“For a governor of a state the size of California to stand up and say access to financial services for everyone is a critical issue is very significant,” said Jennifer Tescher, director of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, a nonprofit research group affiliated with the Shore Bank in Chicago.

Under the program, more than 30 banks and credit unions will receive grants from the William J. Clinton Foundation to enable them to offer residents low- or no-fee accounts, to train them how to use banks and in many cases to waive overdraft fees the first few times.

“When there are such a staggering amount of people that are not having a checking account or a savings account and getting their paychecks cashed in some other place where they have to pay dearly for that,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a telephone interview, “you say to yourself, ‘I think we have to do a better job.’ ”

Roughly 11 percent of California’s 25 million residents — most of them poor — do not have checking or savings accounts. They cash paychecks at privately owned check-cashing businesses and store their money under proverbial mattresses and in other places that earn them no interest.

Many of the “unbanked,” as those in the finance world refer to people lacking accounts, are immigrants who fear doing business with commercial banks, or people who have a history of accumulating so many overdraft, below-minimum-balance and other fees that they end up forfeiting their accounts.
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Immigrant's family gets bilingual boost

This charity group, GROWS, helps immigrants learn English and function in our country. DP

By Victor Manuel Ramos | Sentinel Staff Writer

Leticia Rojas remembers the anguish she felt 13 years ago when her 1-year-old son came down with a high fever while her husband was at work.

She was living in Winter Garden and had to haul the sick child to a bus stop 20 minutes away, then take a bus to downtown Orlando and wait for another bus to get to Apopka -- the only place she knew of that had a clinic with a bilingual staff.

It was a trip that took several hours for what turned out to be strep throat and an ear infection.

Rojas, an immigrant from Mexico, could not speak English. As a result, she was stuck with limited options. She also couldn't drive and depended on her husband to get to most places beyond walking distance.

"I felt like I was disabled," said Rojas, 43, now an Apopka resident. "I couldn't speak to people."

She decided it was time to overcome her fear. She had to become a driver. She had to learn English.

She has accomplished all three goals, thanks in part to the GROWS Literacy Council, a nonprofit group in Apopka that helps immigrants learn literacy skills to improve their lives.

GROWS is among the charities that have benefited from the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund Holiday Campaign, which issues grants to organizations making a difference in their communities.

The programs include workshops on issues such as preventive health care, domestic violence, disciplining children and nutrition.

They've made a world of a difference for Rojas.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Domestic violence program speaks their language

This free program is for Spanish-speaking men to prevent domestic violence. This program is needed in many communities, and usually has great results. DP

By Liz Mineo/MetroWest Daily News staff

A local service agency has launched a program for Spanish-speaking immigrant men in MetroWest to prevent domestic violence.

The program is similar to one that has been offered in English and Portuguese for men through Wayside Men Against Violence for nearly two years in the Milford area.

With the offering of the service in Spanish and in Framingham, program coordinator Percy Andreazi hopes to reach a growing population in MetroWest. According to the 2005 MetroWest Health Data Book & Atlas, published by the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation, in 2000 there were 16,362 Hispanics, who accounted for 3.6 percent of MetroWest's population.

"We want them to benefit from the program the same way Portuguese-speaking men have benefited," Andreazi said. "There have been great results."

Horrified by the murder of Carla Souza and her 11-year-old son, Caique, at the hands of her husband, Jeremias Bins, Andreazi came up with the idea of tailoring the program to Brazilian men in 2007.

Featuring individual counseling and community workshops, the program aims to prevent and reduce family conflicts by looking at the roots of violent behavior and risk factors.

Hispanics and Brazilian immigrants share many risk factors that make them vulnerable to domestic violence, but there was a need to serve Hispanic men in their own language, said Enrique Mendez, a program counselor.

A psychologist in his native Dominican Republic, Mendez is pursuing a master's degree at Boston College. He'll be in charge of offering individual counseling and workshops for the Spanish-speaking community.

"We want to help them understand the roots and the consequences of violence," he said. "We want to teach them how to manage stress and solve conflicts without using violence. We don't want more fatal cases of domestic violence in our communities."

Services are free. The program is funded by the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation. The program is offered in Framingham in collaboration with Voices Against Violence.

For more information, call 508-478-6888, ext. 165, for Wayside Men Against Violence Program, Portuguese-speaking program, and ext. 235 for the Spanish-speaking program.

Immigrants, Minorities Leave Cities

This Census report shows that minorities and immigrants are following jobs and moving to the suburbs and small towns. Now small towns will be more diverse and hopefully, the residents enjoy the change. DP

By Conor Dougherty, WSJ

Immigrants and minorities have moved away from cities in growing numbers since 2000, spreading the national trend toward diversity to the suburbs and beyond.

New data released Tuesday as part of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that immigrants and minorities are moving to smaller areas. While both groups are still a large share of the population in urban areas, a growing number have followed jobs to smaller communities.

“Dispersion and diversity is getting local. It’s coming to small-town America,” said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The data focus on communities with as few as 20,000 people. The population figures are estimates for the years between 2005 and 2007. The change reflects growing diversity nationwide. The share of white population is declining in about half of U.S. counties, the result of immigration — primarily Hispanic — as well as generally higher birth rates among minorities.

In general, the smaller a community, the larger its white population. But the minority population is growing fast. Between 2000 and 2005-2007, communities with populations between 30,000 and 40,000 saw the percentage share of white residents decrease 4.4 percentage points, to 67.5%, according to Mr. Frey’s analysis of Census data. White population share fell 4.2 percentage points to 64.7% in communities between 50,000 and 60,000; and 3.9 percentage points to 62.7% in places with 60,000 to 100,000 people.

Whites are a minority in cities with populations over one million, but that decline has slowed in recent years. Whites accounted for 34.3% of the population in cities over one million between 2005 and 2007, down 1.3 percentage points from 2000.

Some of the most striking demographic change has been in fast-growing communities on the edge of urban areas. In Enterprise, Nev., a community of 65,000 on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the Hispanic population increased roughly fivefold between 2000 and 2005-2007. The black population grew roughly ninefold over the period and Asians fourteenfold.

Immigrants have changed the face of Westminste

Vietnamese immigrants have made this city a wonderful place to live. They brought many things to the area and are now a major part of the city, with members on the city council too. DP

Most residents -- including Mayor Margie Rice, who's lived there for more than 50 years -- say the mass assimilation of Vietnamese Americans has made the city bigger, stronger and more diverse.

By Dana Parsons, LA Times

Margie Rice lived in Westminster before it had a grocery store. Or a Vietnamese heritage. If both historical notes now seem hard to imagine, it just goes to show what has happened to the once sleepy white-bread community of 92,000.

Westminster/Little Saigon?

You talk about a twain that you'd never think would meet.

But they did meet and, as a Times story noted Sunday, the city soon will be the first in the country to sport a Vietnamese American majority on its council.

As an elected mayor set to begin her fifth term and a Westminster resident since 1956, Rice has seen it all unfold.

In the early days of the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s, she was a school board member. The newly arrived schoolchildren didn't know what was expected of them and couldn't speak the language. Some eschewed indoor restrooms, using the school yard instead, and were unfamiliar with knives and forks in the lunchroom. Rice remembers a young Vietnamese boy flushing a goldfish down a toilet. "He never realized he'd never get it back," she says.

Today, it'd be fair to speculate that some of those same children now define the city. Which leads me to ask Rice if she foresaw that 30 years ago.

"Never," she says.

And becoming future political leaders and significant players in the city's commercial vitality?

Out of the question. "We were just coping with day-to-day stuff," she says.

Hard to believe today, but Rice says she wasn't convinced then that the new arrivals would stay very long. "I thought they were just coming over to stay until the war was over and then they'd want to go back to their own country. That was my thought at the time, that we were giving them safe haven here. But they've brought so much to our city."
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Census: More Hispanics in USA fluent in English

New Census data shows that more Hispanics are speaking English very well. They understand how important it is to any success they can have in this country. Some areas still have low rates of English speakers, though, so more classes are needed. DP

By Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY

More Spanish speakers are speaking English very well despite a steady influx of immigrants this decade — a sign that they are blending in at least linguistically, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Census data released Tuesday.

The drop in the percentage who struggle with English is most noticeable in some of the largest counties and cities that have attracted immigrants for decades.

In Los Angeles County, the percentage of the Spanish-speaking population that has trouble with English slid from 21% in 2000 to 19.6% in 2005-07, the three years measured in the data released today. In El Paso, the share dropped from 32% to 28.5%.

In many places, the share has not increased despite growth in immigration: Pima County, Ariz., which includes Tucson, at 8.4%; Atlanta's Fulton County at 4.1%.

In many new destinations for Hispanics, however, the inability to speak English fluently is a growing challenge. In some smaller counties in Colorado, South Carolina and some other states, the number of Hispanics who say they don't speak English "very well" has risen.

In Prince William County, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the share more than doubled to 9.3% or almost 30,000 people.

In Oregon's Clackamas County, southeast of Portland, about 5,000 more people who speak Spanish don't speak English "very well." They total more than 11,000 or about 3% of the population.

The new American Community Survey offers the first detailed demographic profile since the 2000 Census of places with as few as 20,000 people.

When people respond to the Census survey by saying they speak English "very well," it means they're fluent. Anything less means that people often can't read bank statements, rental agreements and warning labels and have difficulty communicating with a doctor or police officer, linguists and demographers say.
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Well-educated and undocumented

Many immigrant children are facing big problems when they try to find work after college. Many are illegal residents and can't get jobs now. Such a terrible waste of talent and education! We need immigration reform, these young people have to stay here and use their education, start companies, buy houses and pay taxes. DP

Thousands of undocumented college graduates face major hurdles while looking for employment. Most were brought here by their parents.

By JESSICA TERRELL, The Orange County Register

Carried into the United States in her mother's arms, Maria became a criminal when she was just over 2-weeks-old.

Of course, she did not know that at the time. Maria found out that she was an illegal immigrant when she began applying to colleges at 17, and told herself that if she was unable to gain U.S. citizenship by the time she was 30, she would leave the country forever.

Now 22-years-old and a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, Maria, who is still undocumented, said that she tries not to think about her lack of citizenship and the obstacles it could create for her future.

Maria is one of thousands of students in Orange County who have been able to attend college through AB 540, a California law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, rather than the higher fee charged to non-California residents.
The Register is withholding the full names of the undocumented students at their request and under newspaper policy that recognizes the potential for retaliation against them.

Undocumented students are ineligible for state or federal financial aid, but do get help under a policy that allows them to pay the same fees as California residents. For example, non-California residents pay an additional $20,608 a year at the University of California; up to $10,170 at the California State University: and up to $170 per unit at community colleges.

Since AB 540 was enacted in 2001, a growing number of undocumented students in California have been able to pursue college degrees. There are no statewide numbers on how many undocumented students receive help through the program or how much they receive.
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Can Obama's New Requirements Keep Pace with English Language Learner Student Needs?

This article talks about the difficulty teaching ELL students, when there is not proper teacher training. Government plans to reform education will have to make sure there is specific ELL teacher training included. DP

By Anne Swigard, president of Educational Training Specialists

Phoenix, AZ (PRWEB) December 7, 2008 -- As President-Elect Obama transitions into the White House, one major area of focus is the state of education in the United States. While many changes are planned with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act, a key focus area is the graduation rates of English Language Learners. In his comprehensive plan to reform education, Obama believes that schools should be held accountable for the success of their ELLs.

Proper teacher training is vital to the success of this program for the Obama administration. However, there has historically been a disconnect between teacher preparation programs and what it really takes to teach students who are learning a second language.

"When teachers are initially trained in their undergraduate degree program, there is often little, if any, emphasis on teaching English Language Learners," stated Anne Swigard, president of Educational Training Specialists (, a teacher training company that has instructed thousands of educators nationwide in the techniques to successfully work with English Language Learners. "Teaching English Learners is different from teaching students in the mainstream, and requires a different skill set."

Swigard stated that if teachers, through no fault of their own, are ill-equipped to engage and teach these students, the United States will continue to see high dropout levels among ELLs. She believes this will translate into a further drain on already-strained social programs, in addition to producing an under-prepared future work force.
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Monday, December 08, 2008

Armed Forces to Recruit More Legal Immigrants

From Washington Post, Around the Nation

Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for wars, the Pentagon will temporarily recruit foreigners who have been living in the United States on student and work visas, or with refugee or political asylum status.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has authorized the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to recruit legal residents whose critical medical and language skills are "vital to the national interest," officials said, using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

Though the military previously has taken recruits with green cards seeking permanent residency, Gates's action allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find as many as 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the States legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

The new recruits into the military would get accelerated treatment toward becoming citizens.

Aldersgate Church in eighth year offering free English classes to immigrants

This church has been offering free classes to immigrants, to help them learn English and learn more about living here. DP

By Antonio Prado, Community News

Brandywine Hundred, Del. — Local immigrants and foreign nationals who want to improve their English can find help at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Brandywine Hundred.

For the last eight years, Aldersgate has offered free English classes that range from beginner to advanced once a week as part of its outreach ministry, said Renate Muendel, one of the teachers. The program also helps them become more comfortable with American people and culture.

The students are from all over the world and include people from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, Muendel said. Depending on work schedules and personal situations, the church off Concord Pike has a half dozen to 10 students attending classes.

Muendel came to the U.S. more than 40 years ago from Germany and understands what the students are going through. She has been a member of Aldersgate since she came to Wilmington.

“I really feel at some point one should pay back for all the favors and support that one has received,” said Muendel, a former English professor at West Chester University. “And there’s an enormous feeling of gratification as one sees people becoming more comfortable with the English language. And they are so hard working, honest and eager. For a teacher, that’s marvelous.”
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Making Time for a Little Democracy

These immigrant students in a high school continuation program have started a student council to give the students a united voice. They are learning about democracy from the inside. DP

In an Immigrant-Heavy Arlington High School Program, Students Contending With Classes and Jobs Seek a Voice as Well

By Theresa Vargas, Washington Post Staff Writer

A Guatemalan immigrant who arrived alone in Arlington County a few years ago, Ramiro Cortez longs for many things: a high school diploma, the ability to speak English with ease and the means to earn more money than his job as a waiter will ever pay.

For now, though, he will settle for one simple title: student council president.

As the nation's attention was tuned to a historic election, an unexpected display of democracy was playing out among an unlikely group of students at a Northern Virginia school. At the Arlington Mill High School Continuation Program, where many students are immigrants, there had never been a student council. But in the past few months, three students from different Latin American countries worked to change that.

On Tuesday, the student council met formally at the school for the first time.

"I think it's grand," Principal Barbara Thompson said. "Just them coming together with a voice, it's touching and powerful, very powerful."

About 85 percent of students at the school are Latino, and most are older than the average high school student; there is no upper age limit for enrollment. For many of the students, work shifts slam into class schedules, with little time to study and sleep, let alone participate in extracurricular activities.

That's why Thompson was surprised when Cortez and two other students, Delfino Escudero and Jose Luis Pinto, approached her in September with the idea for the council. She said they told her they wanted a more organized voice. She presented the possibility to the faculty and students, and it received unanimous approval.
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Telford multicultural center helps to prepare for job market

Computer training classes, ESL and other classes are held at this community center. The classes are for everyone in the community, not just immigrants. And all the classes are free. DP

In today's world, most jobs require a person to be able to work with computers.

By Bob Keeler, Staff Writer

"Sometimes, just to apply for a job, you need computer knowledge," Diedone Diela, executive director of the Multicultural Community Center in Telford, said.

That's because the application form, itself may be on a computer or the jobseeker may have to spend part of the application process in front of a computer screen, he said.

Free computer training classes are held at the center Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

"The computer classes are going to help the immigrants in the job market," said Monica Panzo, volunteer coordinator at the center.

The programs aren't only for immigrants, though. "We just opened this center to help people in the community," Panzo said. "It doesn't matter where you're from."
Most of those in the classes have little background in computers, she said.
"The teacher is starting with the basics," Panzo said.

As the students complete that training, additional classes at other levels will be held, she said.

The center is also planning to have English as a Second Language classes, culinary programs, Montgomery County Health Department classes on topics such as nutrition or dental matters, and would like to start a walking for health group, Panzo said.

"We just welcome people who want to learn, who want to get some knowledge," Diela said. "The training is free of charge."

The program started in Little Zion Lutheran Church in Franconia, which also hosts One in Christ Worship Community. Diela pastors One in Christ.

Earlier this year, the community center moved to its new home on Main Street near Broad Street in Telford.
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Bush's war, our refugees

This is a very interesting story about several Iraqi refugees who have moved into Michigan. Life is difficult for them now, but it was impossible for them to stay in Iraq. DP

Michigan expects more than 2,000 Iraqis this year; here are some of their stories

By Sandra Svoboda

Classmates Even Yaaqoub and Maryam Bkla know they're safe at Sterling Heights High School. That wasn't the case in their native Baghdad. Classes were canceled for Even when bombings were too close — he remembers hearing the explosions while in class. Maryam says everyone in Iraq knows someone who's been injured or killed in the violence that's followed the U.S. invasion. A cousin was shot several times but survived, losing an eye.

"It's all because of the war. We couldn't stay because they were kidnapping and killing people," she says.

Similar stories are told by the hundreds of Iraqis who've resettled in metro Detroit during the last two years as the United States finally opened to these refugees of the war in Iraq. Next year more are expected to join the largest community of Iraqis outside of Iraq. Hurried and dangerous departures, family separations and efforts to rebuild lives ... these are the stories that tug at heartstrings, for local Iraqis.

"It's so hard," says Tamara Dabish, an American-born Iraqi who works as a teacher's aide in Even and Maryam's English classes. Her eyes fill with tears as she listens to the teens. "That's what my parents came from. I feel really emotional about it."

Sister Beth Murphy, volunteer services coordinator at the Archdiocese of Detroit, says she sees a "collective grief" among Iraqi-Americans for their homeland and what it has suffered: war, dictatorship, more war and now another wave of displaced people.

"Iraqis, no matter how long they've been here, are still to some extent mourning what's happened in their homeland," she says. "I think all displaced persons do, but in this case it's really strong."
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Fargo woman receives national award for work

This program, called Giving+Learning, connects volunteers with immigrants who need help with English. It was started by the woman who very deservedly received the national Purpose Prize, given to “social entrepreneurs”. DP

By Patrick Springer, The Forum

Michele McRae eagerly anticipated the freedoms of retirement and the flexibility it would provide to travel abroad.

She would go to Ireland to visit family and to France and Australia to visit old friends.

But McRae has mostly stayed in Fargo since she retired seven years ago, directing a program called Giving+Learning that matches volunteer mentors with new Americans who need help learning English.

She’s found the work rewarding, helping more than 600 refugees and other immigrants develop English skills that have allowed them to find work, gain citizenship or learn how to drive.

Now, as one of six top recipients of the national Purpose Prize, she’s about to be rewarded in a more tangible way: a $100,000 grant that she plans to use to help expand a program that helps make new lives for new Americans.

The Purpose Prize, now in its third year, rewards “social entrepreneurs” aged 60 and over who are tackling big challenges facing society.

Funding for the prize comes from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Learning the language

Vickery Meadow Learning Center is the largest English as a Second Language-only facility in Dallas. More than 550 students study there each semester.'s Aaron Chimbel has a semester-long look inside the program. It’s a journey to learning the language.

Aaron Chimbel of has a 22 minute documentary on this web page too.
A very interesting story, a terrific school too.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rich world needs more foreign workers: report

This International Organization for Migration report shows that countries need more immigrant workers, even in an economic downturn. DP


GENEVA (AP) — An international migration organization appealed Tuesday to countries to keep open their doors to immigrant workers despite the global economic crises.

The International Organization for Migration said that, despite the current downturn, rich nations will continue to need foreign workers to fill jobs their shrinking work forces cannot or will not do.

In its 4th World Migration Report, the Geneva-based intergovernmental body said there are more than 200 million migrants around the world today.

Developed nations compete for highly skilled immigrants, but there is also a growing need for low-skilled workers in rich countries, the report said.

Planning immigration is "especially important during downturns in the global economy such as the one we are witnessing today," said Gervais Appave, one of the editors of the report.

Appave said the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s demonstrated that the need for immigrant workers continues, even during times of economic hardship.

"There's always jobs that the host population don't want to do," said IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya. She said that, in many countries, the demand for workers in health care, domestic care and service industries will continue to grow.

Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, with 70.6 million people in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the report said.

North American, with over 45.1 million immigrants, is second, followed by Asia, which hosts nearly 25.3 million.

Most of today's migrant workers come from Asia, and demographic data suggest that by 2030, China and India will provide 40 percent of the global work force, the report said.

An average of nearly 1.4 million people per year left each of several areas — Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean — between 2000 and 2005, historically high levels that are expected to be smaller in the future, the report said.

On the net:

Citizenship hopefuls celebrate making the grade

This class of immigrants is learning about the U.S. so they can pass the citizenship test. They are learning language, history, civics, grammar and more. DP

By Meredith Blake, Staff Writer

Nelida Martinez, an immigrant from Argentina, spent three years learning English, studying American history and civics to pass her United States citizenship test this September.

"It feels very good," she said. "There is so much to learn."

Martinez was just one of more than 40 people who participated in an American citizenship class, offered by the nonprofit Community Centers Inc., which caters to low-income residents.

The group gathered Sunday for their annual lunch, held at Thai Basil restaurant on Railroad Avenue. Each year the luncheon is held to honor graduates and to celebrate course participants. They choose a different place each year to give the students a chance to test their English and try something new, said Lilliana Herrera, the course's teacher.

"We do this every year so our students get to enjoy other cultural food, and get together," she said, "Most of our students don't get a chance to go to places like these."

For nearly a decade, the nonprofit at 61 E. Putnam Ave. has been offering the class, which prepares immigrants to apply for citizenship. The course teaches English language, American history, civics and grammar - all subjects they are tested on, Herrera said.

"I think it's a really hard test to take, but our students are really prepared," she said.
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Illegal immigrants going home, and local labor market at risk

Many immigrant workers are leaving the U.S. and going home. When the economy improves there will be severe labor shortages. Right now, some Americans are taking those lower paying jobs. DP


Malaquías Gaspar left his farm village in southern Mexico when the economy soured in the mid-1990s. He headed north illegally and found the proverbial better opportunity in South Florida, where he made a decent living by picking fruit and building homes.

But the U.S. economic crisis has disrupted his life and the lives of countless other illegal immigrants who are now planning to leave or have already left.

Gaspar recently returned to Zimatlán de Alvarez in Oaxaca state, primarily to care for his ailing mother -- but also to plan for the future should the economy worsen in South Miami-Dade County, where his wife and four children remain.

''If we can't feed our children, we'll come back,'' said Gaspar, 40, as he sat at his family home -- upgraded with money he had sent from South Florida.

Gaspar is among millions of undocumented immigrants facing new challenges brought on by slim prospects for legalization, more aggressive federal enforcement and a worsening economy. Now, fewer immigrants are caught while trekking through the dangerous Sonoran Desert or risking their lives aboard makeshift boats in the Caribbean, indicating that fewer are trying. Those who make it through can find themselves on one of several daily federal charter flights that return deportees.

The ripple effects are already being felt. Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean report a reduction in remittances -- money sent home from the United States. That money is critical to the survival of families and the success of local civic projects. Border communities that once thrived as way stations for those heading north are now little more than ghost towns.
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Kennedy: Bishop says Joseph and Mary were immigrants, too

Christmas is an immigrant story, says the new bishop of Arkansas. There is a comparison to immigration and civil rights in the bishop's letter. DP


The new bishop of Arkansas has a strong message for Roman Catholics: Christmas is an immigrant’s story.

"Does Jesus find a warm welcome in our communities?" writes Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, a Fort Worth native, in a pastoral letter read last Sunday in parishes across Arkansas.

"What changes do we need to make here in Arkansas in order to ensure that today’s Marys and Josephs — today’s Marias and Joses — receive a warm welcome truly worthy of the Savior?"

Taylor, 54, was resting this weekend far from the ensuing political firestorm.

Here to see siblings in Fort Worth, he visited the city where his family founded Taylor Dressed Beef Co. and where he spent kindergarten in St. Andrew’s Catholic School.

"I’ve had a few negative letters," he said.

So I see in the Arkansas newspapers and on the Web, where activists from Americans for Legal Immigration are openly publishing Catholic-bashing comments accusing Arkansas church leaders as "pedifiles" and the church of "looking for more alter boys."

Priests across Arkansas will follow Taylor’s letter with sermons today, beginning a three-week series of Advent messages linking the Christmas story to civil rights and immigration.

The title of Taylor’s message is from Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: "I Was a Stranger, and You Welcomed Me . . ."

Read his entire letter. It’s on the diocese Web site at
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Seeking a better life for children

This story tells the hardship and struggles refugee families go through to move to the U.S. Even though the adults are not happy, they sacrifice to make a better life for their children. DP

Bhutanese family works to see daughter succeed

By Melanie Asmar, Special to the Rocky

Som Baral had a good job as a math teacher in Nepal and ran a small grocery store on the side. The money was enough that his family could afford to rent an apartment outside the camp that held Bhutanese refugees.

People like Baral.

But Baral knew the future was uncertain, especially for his 8-year-old daughter, Sabina. So, earlier this year, he took the life-altering step of applying for resettlement in the United States.

Baral and his family arrived in Denver in mid-August. The transition, he says, has not been easy.

"The beginning is difficult, very hard for us," said Baral, 30, in near-perfect English from his living room couch. "But what we thought is our children will adapt in America and . . . maybe after five or 10 years, we can do something, maybe buy an apartment or have a citizenship, and maybe we can go back to our position."

Baral is part of a recent wave of refugees from Bhutan, a tiny Asian country wedged between China and India. His family fled Bhutan in 1991, as did thousands of other ethnic Nepalese living there.

The reason, the refugees say, was attempted ethnic cleansing, governmental strong-arm tactics that forced them to leave the Bhutanese land they'd worked for more than a century.

Baral was 12 when his family - suspected of aiding in a rebellion against the government - fled their farm in the middle of the night to escape the army.

His family ended up in a camp in Nepal, where poor living conditions and cold claimed the elderly and malnutrition claimed the young. But Baral survived. He got good grades in school and eventually went to college and worked outside the camp.

Outwardly, he lived a peaceful life. But inside, he was stuck between countries - effectively a citizen of nowhere.
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What Newcomers Know About Thanksgiving

A terrific story about high school students in Queens, NY who are almost all immigrants. They learned about Thanksgiving and understand it on a very personal level. They all know about struggles and dreams and reasons for leaving another country. They probably understand our holiday more than most people born here. Please read the whole story. DP

Immigrant students learn what makes America great.

By MELANIE KIRKPATRICK, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page

Study after depressing study finds that public schools are failing in their civic duty to transmit to students an appreciation of American history and ideals. That may be so. But on this Thanksgiving weekend, allow me to recount a good news story from a New York City high school for recent immigrants. There, a group of teenagers, born in the four corners of the world, have a lot to teach a native-born visitor about Thanksgiving and what it means to choose to come to this country. For them, the Pilgrims' story mirrors their own stories.

Newcomers High School is located in the New York City borough of Queens, where, according to the 2000 Census, 46% of the population of 2.2 million are immigrants. It is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the country. Some 850 students attend Newcomers, says Principal Mary Burke. They hail from 60 countries and speak 40-plus languages. For most, this past Thursday marked their first or second Thanksgiving celebration.

Sophia Zannis teaches ESL -- English as a Second Language -- at Newcomers. She uses the Thanksgiving story to get her students talking and writing about why they came to the U.S. History teacher Tim Becker includes a unit on the holiday even though Thanksgiving isn't part of the state-mandated curriculum for his 11th-grade class. It "reminds my students that they are not the first new Americans to have struggled to achieve their dreams," he says, "and that others before them have overcome the challenges of living in a new country."

Like the Pilgrims, most of the students at Newcomers say their families came here seeking better lives. The Pilgrims "were looking for something they didn't have in England," says a girl from Colombia. "When you come here it is the same. You have to face difficulties." An Ecuadorian girl sitting near her agrees, "When they [the Pilgrims] came here, they felt alone and didn't have friends. Me either."

Virtually every student I talk to has a similar story: "My dad came here to have a better life," says a girl from Ivory Coast. "He worked as a house boy. Now he works for the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority]." Or a boy from China: "My mother finished elementary school. Then there wasn't any money for middle school. . . . She wanted to come here to make a better life for her children." A Bangladeshi boy quotes the Declaration of Independence; his family came here for the purpose of "pursuiting the happiness."
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