Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tending the American Melting Pot

Our government is trying to help immigrants learn about American values while at the same time, keeping their own culture. DP

U.S. Promotes Assimilation Through Teaching of Political Values and English

By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post Staff Writer When discussing lofty concepts such as "rule of law," it helps to use real-world examples. So as Alfonso Aguilar spoke to a class of Vietnamese immigrants prepping for the U.S. citizenship test yesterday, he noted that in his parents' homelands -- Costa Rica and Italy -- people view stop signs as "recommendations," not mandates.

"Just like us in Vietnam," said Lam Phan, 59, a waiter, drawing chuckles from his classmates at the Long Branch Community Center in Silver Spring.

The mood was light. But to Aguilar, the classroom was no less than a front in an "assimilation movement for the 21st century." As chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship, Aguilar has spearheaded a new federal initiative to get immigrants to embrace English and American political values at a time of surging immigration -- a trend that he warned could lead to a "country of enclaves."

"This swelling is going to continue," Aguilar said in an interview before the class. "This is just to take preemptive action to make sure the process of integration continues."

The government has launched a Web site that offers information to immigrants on benefits, English classes and volunteer work. It has provided training for civics teachers and distributed thousands of citizenship "tool kits," with flash cards and booklets, to libraries, community centers and faith-based groups.

The idea, Aguilar said, is not to ask immigrants to shed their cultures but to help them adopt American political values.

"We want to encourage people to celebrate their roots but at the same time to develop roots to their communities," he said.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Game Launched - ICED- immigration

Launch announced of a new game. (Breakthrough - ) new video game on immigration: ICED – I Can End Deportation – has launched today at

In the game, you can step inside the shoes of one out of five immigrant teens, each of a different ethnicity and immigration status. The game teaches how immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights to all immigrants.

The game is free and there are versions for both Windows and Macintosh. There is also a version that runs in the Global Kids Island in Teen Second Life, a virtual world accessible only to teens.

Check it out. It can be fun and educational at the same time.

Plan to give immigrants in-state tuition stalls

Only 5%-10% of illegal immigrant children who graduate from high school in the U.S., or about 65,000 students, go on to college. What a waste of educating them for 12 or 13 years! DP

By Mike Butts BOISE — Supporters of an Idaho bill that would let some illegal immigrants pay in-state college tuition said the legislation would help all Idahoans. But the bill appears to lack support from lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee where it was printed.

About 50 people rallied in front of the Statehouse annex Monday in Boise to advocate for the bill. Critics say it unfairly rewards students who do not having legal citizenship status in the United States.

A Utah State University student from Idaho spoke in favor of the bill.

“This is not an immigration debate, this is an education issue,” Krista Bustamantes said. “It’s better for the state economically, and statistically speaking for (illegal immigrant students) to get an education now in case they become citizens later.”

The bill requires students to have lived in Idaho for three years and graduated from an Idaho high school. Currently, legal U.S. residents must live in Idaho for at least one year to get in-state tuition.

Supporters say students in Idaho can attend kindergarten through high school without being asked if they are legal citizens, but that advantage ends at college. And that, they say, creates a financial burden that leaves many immigrant students out of college.
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Hmong kids in Kirkland play to learn

This community is taking school to the children's apartment building to help them prepare for school. In the long run, it helps the whole system. DP

By Rachel Tuinstra, Seattle Times Eastside bureau Principal Jeff DeGallier could see he had a challenging situation months ago.

John Muir Elementary in Kirkland is home to a diverse population. Nineteen percent of the students are Hmong, many of them recent immigrants from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and other Asian countries.

Many of the Hmong children started school unfamiliar with a classroom setting, knowing very little English and lacking basic literacy skills. They struggled to catch up with classmates, even after going through several grades.

DeGallier had to do something. Fast forward to today.

A dozen Hmong preschoolers surround Sau Lai Chan as she sings "The Wheels on the Bus."

The children sing and hum along, stumbling through the unfamiliar words but catching on to the musical tempo. When they get restless, Chan cajoles them with an oversized book full of pictures of clowns and acrobats.

Once a week, the community recreation room at Kirkland Heights Apartments is transformed into a preschool, with books, colorful Legos and worksheets with traceable letters and numbers.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Election-year politics: Why immigration reform will have to wait

We hoped for awhile that immigration reform was close, but it might not even get much discussion until a year from now or later. DP

Despite the public's cry for reforms, election-year politics will keep politicians from plain talk and solutions.

By David R. Francis | columnist In an election year, the prospects of straight talk by the presidential candidates on immigration reform are slim. The issue is too complex and highly contentious.

The public would like to see the problem of illegal immigrants tackled by Washington. But most Americans oppose shortcuts to citizenship for the 12 million or more "undocumented" immigrants. Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are competing for the Hispanic vote. They aren't talking tough about deporting illegal workers and their families, most of whom are Hispanic. After all, friends and family of illegal Latinos often have the vote.

On the Republican side, the candidates tend to talk sternly about repatriating illegal immigrants. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona has the awkward history of having cosponsored a bill with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts last year that would have given illegal aliens a route, involving penalties, fines, and fees, to legal status and citizenship.

Another immigration expert, Joseph Chamie, research director at the Center for Migration Studies in New York, argues contrariwise that legalization is the "only viable long-term option" for dealing with illegal immigrants.

Mr. Chamie longs for "an honest dialogue" by politicians with the public on immigration. That, he says, is unlikely before the election next fall.

"Yes, legalization is an amnesty, in effect," he says. "Yes, it is a reward to those who entered the United States illegally. Yes, illegal immigration does – for some people – depress wages. Yes, it is a matter of national security."

So far, though, "lawmakers are saying one thing and doing another," Chamie says. "I can understand why people are frustrated, angry."

As the presidential campaign moves on, illegal immigration will heat up. Dem ocratic and Republican presidential candidates will use the issue to seek votes.
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Should immigrants take 'integration courses'?

These classes might be a good idea. Assimilation means more than just learning language and history. This is some of what my book teaches too. DP

By Eunice Moscoso, Cox News Service WASHINGTON -- In Germany, many immigrants must pass a 600-hour language course and another 30 hours on the country's legal system, culture and history.

The "integration courses" are designed to help foreigners adapt to German culture and understand Democratic principles of equal rights, tolerance and religious freedom.

Some believe the United States should do the same.

"There is a crisis of assimilation," said John Fonte, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington. "For American representative government to work, people have to believe we're all in this together."

Fonte said that required language and culture courses would be a positive step because many immigrants are not developing emotional attachments to the United States. He also advocates making English the nation's official language and eliminating ballots in other tongues.

Currently, foreigners who want to become U.S. citizens are required to pass a multiple-choice test that includes basic knowledge of American history and civics. Many prepare for the test by taking classes run by nonprofit groups at community centers and churches.

The U.S. government offers materials to study, but does not require foreign legal residents or prospective citizens to pass a course or attend a certain amount of English-language instruction.

Immigrant advocates contend that current immigrants are assimilating at the same pace as past generations of newcomers and are anxious to learn English.
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Study: Young immigrants help Mohawk Valley's economy

Young immigrants played a key role in economic growth in this area. Many people believe immigrants destroy the economy, this area, like most, is being helped by them. DP

By CHINKI SINHA, Observer-Dispatch UTICA — Young immigrants and refugees are filling crucial gaps in the area's work force and housing market as the native population ages, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo's Regional Institute.

From 2003 through 2006, 28 percent of people obtaining legal permanent residency in upstate's largest metro areas — Albany, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo — were younger than 18, compared to 22 percent statewide and 20 percent nationwide, the study said.

In these five upstate metro areas, immigrants played a key role in economic growth, according to the study.

“While upstate immigrants differ substantially from downstate and national immigration trends — in number, origin, and reason for entry — they are playing a larger role in the lives of upstate communities than they have in decades,” according to the study. “Filling critical gaps in urban neighborhoods and key economic sectors, and contributing to the region's global outlook, their importance to the region will likely grow as the native population ages.”

In the Utica area, 64 percent of all immigrants are younger than 34, which offsets the aging work force and will fill in key employment gaps, the study said.

For city Mayor David Roefaro, the region's refugees are a vital force on the economy, and their contribution must not be ignored.
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Firefighters trying to educate citizens with sub-par reading skills

This program helps native English speakers with limited reading ability and also students with limited English reading ability. It is set up for different levels of ability and will help everyone be safer. DP

BY KATE WARD, Northwest Arkansas Times Fayetteville firefighters are teaming up with the Arkansas Literacy Council to provide fire safety training for area residents with limited literacy skills. The program aims at reducing the number of fire-related deaths.

"I wish we had started this years ago," said Assistant Fayetteville Fire Chief Chris Lynch. "Our No. 1 goal is to eliminate fire deaths and unfortunately, Arkansas ranks high compared to national standards."

Six Arkansas counties will participate in this year's home safety literacy program.

"It all started with the Home Safety Council in Washington wanting to make safety information more accessible to people with lower literacy proficiencies," said Jim Allen, executive director for the Ozark Literacy Council. "They went to ProLiteracy Worldwide, which is our umbrella organization, and looked for materials they had produced and discovered."
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UNIDOS program gives support to immigrants

Plano TX police are helping the Hispanic community adapt to life in this country. This is also helping the immigrants to trust the police. DP

By Stephanie Flemmons, Staff Writer The Plano Police Department created a resource center for the Hispanic Community to allow them a chance to adapt to our culture the safe way.

Officer Richard Perez, coordinator, said it’s a way for local residents to learn and survive in the community as taught by trained professionals.

“Someone who speaks English can learn about programs easily because they know the language,” Perez said. “People of the Hispanic Community can’t because of the language barrier.”

Perez learned of a program implemented in Garland and was eager to bring a similar type to Plano. In August 2005, Perez began conducting his first UNIDOS or “united” meetings to Mendenhall Elementary the second Tuesday of every month.

Perez said he invites the entire Hispanic Community and all the meetings are conducted in Spanish. He invites guest speakers to educate the individuals and give information on vital subjects.
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One tale of immigration, assimilation - and home

This is a fun article about a Mexican from Texas assimilating into life in Alabama. DP

By Maximo Cantu, Huntsville Times When you're born you don't get to choose your parents. You don't get to choose to be born to royalty, wealth and lineage. You have no say in whether your parents will be good or abusive.

You choose not your race or the color of your pigment, have no say in your gender, as well as no say in what country you're born in; you just are. As an adult or parent you ascertain what's best for yourself or your children based on what you know, what you have and what experiences you acquired through life, education and what your parents passed down to you.

Pause a moment and think of where you are, who you are, where you came from, where are you going? What is your purpose? Imagine yourself now in a poor village on a south sea island drinking a Coke of all things. You're huddled around the only TV within miles, with 25 of your relatives, watching people wearing clothes that cost you a month's salary.

Unless you're a Native American, you are an immigrant.

As for me, a Hispanic from Texas via Ohio, assimilation into Alabama culture has been an interesting trip. When first asked by an acquaintance about moving to Alabama I pictured flat cotton fields, unbearable weather and, yes, ignorance in the form of racism.

I'm Mexican. They will string me up, I thought. OK, so I'm the ignorant one. I was so wrong, Alabamians have been very friendly.

And part of the assimilation process was worshipping three people, Bear Bryant, Dale Earnhardt and Jesus. In which order is up to debate, Jesus I know, Bear Bryant kinda, Dale? Well, at the time no clue.
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Feeling right at home at Nuestra Casa

This non-profit helps immigrants become Americans. Our communities all need more groups like this. DP

By JANE GARGAS, YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC SUNNYSIDE -- When she first walked through the door of the small, tan house in Sunnyside, she thought she was just getting information.

Instead, this is what Emma Bueno de Mendoza got: her GED, driver's license and American citizenship.

Those accomplishments took several years, of course, but she says they were all through the influence of Nuestra Casa (Our House) in Sunnyside.

"It taught me how a woman can grow," Mendoza says.

On Saturday night, Mendoza told the Sunnyside community how much Nuestra Casa means to her during a gathering to celebrate the facility's fifth anniversary.

In those five years, Nuestra Casa has helped scores of women -- and many men -- in the Lower Valley achieve their aspirations, whether it's learning English, taking nutrition classes or becoming a citizen.

The nonprofit entity provides educational opportunities for Spanish-speaking, immigrant women as well as connecting them with various community resources, such as GED classes.
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Using Comic Books to Teach Reading

Here are some more links to see how this is a successful teaching tool.

Tom Hanson

There's No Jose Here: Following the Hidden Lives of Mexican Immigrants

A New Book available:

Mexican immigration has become one of the most polarizing issues of Bush's second term and will remain a central topic in the coming years. Where once Mexicans had a sizable presence in a few select states like California and Texas, today the fastest growing populations are in places like North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Seemingly overnight, Americans across the country are finding their new neighbors to have names like Gonzales, Paulino, Sosa, and Aguilar.

Yet despite the intense passions that the immigration debate evokes, we remain largely ignorant about the actual lives behind the newspaper headlines and talk show bluster. Why don't Mexicans just "play by the rules" and enter legally? How do they cope, living in a strange country among people that speak a language they can't understand? And after everything they have gone through, do they see immigration as a blessing, a curse, or something in between?

There's No José Here gives voice to a group usually ignored: immigrants themselves. Throughout, the central narrative follows the engaging figure of Enrique, a thirty-four-year-old livery cab driver who came to the US illegally at the age of sixteen and has since seen his daughter poisoned by lead, his mother abandoned in Mexico by his father, his cousin murdered on the streets of Brooklyn, and his best friend deployed to Iraq.

In the harrowing and inspiring account, Gabriel Thompson reveals the lives of people struggling to survive in a new and often hostile land--forcing us to take a hard look at the immigration drama as it plays out in the real world.
Gabriel Thompson