Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sikhs losing their tradition

This story shows what almost always happens eventually for immigrants in this country. The "old country" language and traditions are lost after 2 or 3 generations. More proof that English does not have to be our "official language", English always prevails. DP

By Vanessa Colon - McClatchy Newspapers FRESNO, Calif. -- Over the last two decades, the Indian immigrants in California's Fresno area have built at least a dozen Sikh temples to serve a growing community.
But many temples are often short of one thing: young adults, some of whom say they feel like outsiders.

They don't like the temple politics and don't have command of Punjabi, the primary language of the service.

They want more youth activities and projects to keep them interested.

"There's a generational divide," said 27-year-old Naindeep Singh, regional leader of the Jakara Movement, a nonprofit Sikh youth organization.

Singh said most of the parents are immigrants who observe the religion as they did in India, reciting memorized verses. Many of the youths want a more Americanized service that allows for discussion and explanation.

"It's evolving, but it hasn't evolved at a point where it's engaging the youth," Singh said.

Last month, the generational divide was the focus of the Jakara Movement's annual Sikh Youth Conference held at California State University, Fresno. Participants agreed to ask their temples to make more accommodations for young adults.

Some Sikh elders say younger Sikhs should master Punjabi because it's central to the culture and faith.

Still, those elders agree that changes are needed.
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A salute to Isles' immigrants

A memorial celebrating 100 years of Filipino immigration to Hawai'i. It also celebrates all the different ethnic groups and how important they are to this state. DP

Cultures honored as Flag Memorial Plaza dedicated at Plantation Village

By Kelli Miura, Advertiser Staff Writer WAIPAHU — Eight flags waved in graceful synchronization after they were raised simultaneously yesterday in a ceremony dedicating a memorial at Hawai'i's Plantation Village.

The event was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Filipino immigrants in Hawai'i and to honor the vibrant ethnic cultures that all immigrants brought with them.

The Flag Memorial Plaza features a circular formation of flags from eight major ethnic groups for the immigrants who made great effort and greater sacrifice as they left their home countries during the mid-1800s and early 1900s and sought work in Hawai'i's plantations.

As Dr. Patricia Brown, president of the Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii, sat watching the flags fly, she realized, "It really is ... so significant because as we were growing up on the plantation, there really was a sharing and a caring for each other and these flags really represent that."

Our neighbors could have been Filipino, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, whatever, she said, noting that her father was a sakada, or part of the first group of Filipino laborers in Hawai'i.

"But the point is that it didn't matter what you were. If you needed help in the plantation camp, everybody was equal and that's what these flags embody — an equality and a sharing."

Representatives for each of the flags — Hawai'i, China, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Japan, Okinawa, Korea and the Philippines — were present at the ceremony, where the American flag was also raised.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

City to offer translation services to immigrants

This new law makes it possible for immigrants to live in a city that is more accessible to them. It also frees their young children from acting as translators for their parents in doctor appointments, insurance purchases and other things they are not capable or appropriate to do. DP

BY MICHAEL FRAZIER Mayor Michael Bloomberg's order that city agencies provide translations for the six most spoken languages means immigrants won't have to rely on English-speaking children to translate complex government forms, supporters said yesterday.

"From now on, New Yorkers with limited proficiency in English will be able to approach the city with confidence, knowing that they [will] have a system in place to respond to their needs," said Bloomberg, who is learning Spanish.

After Bloomberg signed the order yesterday, it became the city's first uniform policy requiring agencies to provide translation or interpretations for Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole.

According to 2006 census figures, more than 3.6 million, or 45 percent of New Yorkers claimed a first language other than English. About 1.8 million have limited English proficiency, city officials said.

Many immigrants often depend on their children or relatives to help make sense of job applications, transportation schedules or school enrollment forms, said Yorelis Vidal, senior organizer of Make the Road New York, a nonprofit that supports social reform.

But not now, she said, adding "a more fair and accessible city can transform the world."
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State agency awards grant to schools with immigrant students

This grant is awarded to schools with new immigrants, it will help a great deal with their summer programs and for assistants through the school year. DP

By AMY HETZNER Schools in Milwaukee and three suburban districts will share a state grant to help teach their growing immigrant communities, the state Department of Public Instruction announced Friday.

Milwaukee Public Schools is the largest recipient of the grant money, which is allocated through a competitive program under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The district is scheduled to receive nearly $144,000 of the $868,316 pot.

The Cedarburg, New Berlin and Shorewood school districts also are among the 14 school systems and two cooperative educational service agencies receiving funding, according to the department.

To qualify, school systems had to show they had at least a 25% increase in numbers of immigrant students over three years. Grants were distributed based on the number of eligible students in the district and the scope of the work proposed by the districts, department spokesman John Johnson said.

Schools with limited experience dealing with immigrant children received special consideration.

“The funds, in particular, benefit the education of students in Wisconsin schools who have been in the U.S. less than three years,” Johnson said. “Most of the students have been in the U.S. less than one year.”
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Latino groups unite to launch $5-million voter registration drive

Not much to say here except: "wonderful!" DP

Citing increased interest in national politics and the important issues facing immigrants and Latinos, nine organizations announce a nonpartisan effort to register up to 2 million new voters.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Buoyed by a surge of political interest among immigrants and youth, nine national Latino organizations Friday announced a joint effort to register as many as 2 million new voters as presidential candidates from both parties vie for their community's increasingly influential support.

The $5-million nonpartisan voter registration effort, announced at a national Latino forum in downtown Los Angeles, comes amid an unprecedented campaign by community organizations and Spanish-language media to boost Latino civic participation -- and two new reports showing signs of success.

The U.S. government last week reported that the number of Mexican immigrants who became citizens last year swelled by 50%, with hundreds of thousands more in line to process their naturalization applications.

Community leaders Friday expressed even more excitement about a new study by the Texas-based William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan public policy and research organization that found more than 1 million Latinos had registered to vote during this primary season, including 500,000 in California and Texas.

The biggest buzz centered around who most of the new voters are: not new U.S. citizens as expected, but American-born youth under age 30. That demographic is notoriously difficult to reach but makes up three-fourths of the Latino community's 8 million eligible but unregistered voters, according to Antonio Gonzalez of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in Los Angeles.

"I was shocked by the increase in young new voters," Gonzalez said. "They're typically the hardest to reach."
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Phila. Summer Program Helps Refugees Conquer English

This program is helping immigrants learn English, including this teenager who has fled so many places, he is now learning his fifth language. Happily and with the help of all these new friends. DP

By Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer First, Fareed Hamraqul and his family left Afghanistan, fleeing the Taliban for Uzbekistan in 1992. Then, five months ago, they left home amid more unrest, this time ending up in Philadelphia.

Hamraqul, who will be a junior at Northeast High School in September, now spends sweltering summer mornings soaking up his fifth language. The bright teen's English is halting, but his message is clear.

"Every day, students help me, teachers help me," Hamraqul said yesterday through a translator. "Thank God I am here."

Here is the Philadelphia School District's summer refugee program at Northeast, one of four around the city. It's a free, intense summer class designed for high school students who are new to the country or who want extra help with English.

For the last six years, many new immigrants have spent their summers learning English, making up credits, and working to feel more comfortable in an American classroom. The school district uses the word refugee loosely, and most often it is not referring to those who seek political asylum in the United States.

The stakes are high. Immigrant students tend to stay in school and graduate, said Ana Sainz de la Pena, who directs English as a Second Language and bilingual education for the district. By contrast, many American-born English language learners struggle and drop out.

More than 13,000 of the district's 167,000 students are not native English speakers, and the number has held steady, Sainz de la Pena said. While most schools have some English language learners, Northeast is a magnet for many immigrant groups, as is Washington High in the Northeast and Edison and Kensington elsewhere in the city.

In Uzbekistan, Hamraqul had to deal with not just the fallout from a peripatetic, violent early life, but also a system he couldn't understand.

"My brothers went to school, people made fun of them," he said. "My parents didn't learn Russian because there was no one to help."

Just a few months into his American experience, Hamraqul has been bolstered by his school experience, and has a plan. He wants to become fluent in English, earn his high school diploma, and study at community college, then a university. He wants to teach English to other immigrants. He dreams of being a family man.
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Home state groups jump-start active citizenship in immigrants

A very interesting story; hometown/homestate associations that were started to help people back in the towns the members originally came from and actually help the members become better, more active American citizens. DP

By DIANNE SOLÍS / The Dallas Morning News Roberto Chavarría cut his teeth as a community organizer in a group the likes of which many Americans probably are unaware: a home state association.

Such groups are made up of immigrants from a certain country, state or city who work together to help out back home with development projects such as parks and school additions.

Mexicans have formed more than 600 clubs around the country, and they played a role in the $25 billion that was sent to Mexico last year by migrants abroad.

But there are unexpected benefits as groups become more active locally and their members move toward what's being called active citizenship.

Mr. Chavarría's group, made up of people from the central Mexican state of Michoacán, worked on getting high school diplomas for its members via Internet classes in Mexico. His next move is to shift those immigrants into high school equivalency tests in Texas.

"I feel more American than many Americans," says Mr. Chavarría, a 48-year-old legal permanent resident. "I don't think being an American is a piece of paper. It is the way you do things and think. I like freedom and free enterprise and what this country stands for."

Mr. Chavarría and his activism illustrate the conclusions of a report released this week by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. It says the associations can support civic life in the U.S. as much as they do in their home countries.

Such groups can serve as the first step toward active citizenship in the U.S. and merit attention by American nonprofits and government agencies, says the report, "Hometown Associations: An Untapped Resource for Immigrant Integration."
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Immigrants put on path to prosperity

This program is helping immigrants learn about our financial systems. It helps them learn about bank accounts, loans and ways to prosper here. DP

By Waveney Ann Moore, Times Staff Writer Ann Haendel was sitting on a plane leaving India when she came up with the idea. Fifteen pounds below her normal weight and ill, Haendel knew that her regular volunteer stints overseas would have to come to an end. But how else to be part of the lives of the people she regularly traveled thousands of miles to assist?

Then she remembered an Ithaca, N.Y., program she'd read about that offered no-interest loans to immigrants and refugees. It seemed just the thing to offer in the Tampa Bay area.

A year and a half later, Project Prosper was launched.

Last week, a small group of immigrants met in a classroom at the Tomlinson Adult Learning Center for a Project Prosper financial literacy class. Over the past weeks, the students in the school's English for Speakers of Other Languages have been learning about checking accounts, budgeting, saving, credit reports and protecting themselves against identity theft and fraud

Volunteers Michael Walters, a retired lawyer and a Project Prosper board member, joined with Robin Warren, a retired banker and lawyer, to teach the lively class.

David Metellus, 23, who moved from Haiti almost two years ago, asked how to establish credit.

"I'm going to open an account and I want to know everything,'' he said later, adding that he will need to borrow money to pursue his dream of being a doctor.

Spaska Borisova from Bulgaria talked about the importance of being able to understand the American system.

"Our system in Bulgaria is different,'' said the 38-year-old St. Petersburg resident.

Besides financial literacy, Project Prosper provides small no-interest loans of up to $1,500 to eligible applicants in South or mid-Pinellas County who have lived in the United States for eight years or less. Borrowers also are required to save a certain amount of money, equivalent to 10 percent of their monthly payments, each month.
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One man realizes the American Dream

This is the background story of an immigrant who has achieved the American Dream, through a lot of hard work. He is the same man who was quoted in the article about immigrants living in their own community and never learning English or assimilating. DP

By Tony Castro, Staff Writer Edwin Ramirez had every reason to feel sorry for himself.

He was barely out of childhood when his mother left home and he became the man of the house, responsible for his younger sisters and brother.

When the family reunited, he was 17 and sacrificed his own education to go to work and help his mother support the family and put his siblings through school.

But Ramirez, now 51, turned out OK in the end. In fact, he turned out more than OK.

He founded two family businesses and helped his kid brother and sisters all get high school diplomas.

He helped build two charter schools for his son to attend. He got involved in his community, in then-Mayor Richard Riordan's call for revamping the Los Angeles City Charter.

He became a PTA leader and Neighborhood Council president. And his kid, the one who inspired him to build those charter schools, is now in his third year in a prominent college studying to become a psychologist.

"Yeah, I guess I am the American Dream," says Ramirez.

Yes, he is. Edwin Ramirez also is an immigrant.
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For many immigrants in the Valley, life continues as it did in their native countries

This article is about the immigrant communities and how they do not assimilate. There is no need to. People who have been here since the 1970s still don't speak much English. If they stay in their community, they don't need English. This is a sad story. DP

By Tony Castro, Staff Writer PACOIMA - The Mexican ranchero music blaring from the corner jukebox drowned out most of what the afternoon lunch crowd at La Costa Azul restaurant was saying.

It could have been any one of thousands of Mexican diners throughout Los Angeles: Mirrored advertisements for Corona Extra, Tecate and Budweiser. A painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe and another of her discoverer St. Juan Diego. Votive candles above the shelves of glasses.

And the day's shrimp specials chalked on a board: Camarones Rancheros. Camarones al Mojo de Alo. Camarones a la Diabla. Camarones Empanizados. Camarones Ahogados. Camarones Imperiales. Camarones a la Plancha.

"You can now live in some communities in America and live your entire life as if you were still in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras," Pacoima neighborhood activist Edwin Ramirez says while munching one of La Costa Azul's house specialties.

But there is no hint of braggadocio in his observation. Instead, there is a sense of ironic sadness and lament.

"I straddle two worlds - and they are both my own," says Ramirez. "Culturally, it's good that Spanish is spoken universally in a lot of communities like Pacoima. But it's not good when it doesn't allow you to assimilate into the new society. There are people here (from Central America) who have been here since the 1970s whose English is still worse than that of kindergartners.
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Immigrant Workers Vital, Va. Firms Say

A group called Virginia Employers for Sensible Immigration Policy has recently been formed. They know immigrant workers are necessary and want to press the federal government to do more. DP

Poultry Industry Seeks Better U.S. Screening to Cull Illegal Applicants, Avert Fines

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Staff Writer Every morning, 26,000 white tom turkeys arrive at the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative plant in the Shenandoah Valley, where they are killed, gutted, cleaned, chilled, cut up and prepared for shipment by the end of the day. The work is hard and cold and messy, and few local residents are willing to do it.

So the cooperative relies heavily on immigrant workers. Its owners say that they do their best to weed out applicants who are in the country illegally but that their industry is increasingly squeezed by federal pressure on employers who hire illegal immigrants and criminal networks that sell false or stolen identity documents.

Now, poultry processors in Virginia and across the country are taking their case to Congress. Last week, several hundred industry leaders met in Washington to lobby for immigration changes and an improved document-checking system as well as relief from environmental rules that have doubled the price of the feed corn they buy for their birds.

"We depend on immigrants. If they all went away today, people like us couldn't operate," said Jim Mason, president of the cooperative, who visited a half-dozen congressional offices. "People think we hire Hispanics because we can get them cheaper, but it is absolutely false. We do everything the government asks and more to make sure our workers are legal, and we turn a lot of people away. But if an ID is stolen, there is nothing we can do."
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Rapid growth bringing both progress, problems

The growth of immigration in this area has created a vibrant community, but also has problems of crime and urban decay. DP

By Tony Castro, Staff Writer Fernando Valley's Latino population has grown more than four times faster than the rest of Los Angeles' Latino population, leading demographers to project Latinos may outnumber Anglos in the Valley by as early as 2010.

Fueling the growth is immigration of Central Americans and Mexicans to the Northeast Valley, where once-isolated Latino pockets have mushroomed into full-scale communities.

While the boom has created a vibrant, multicultural Valley, it has not come without problems - including urban decay and crime.

According to law enforcement officials, the Valley is now home to 20,000 gang members - predominantly Latino - and gang violence has increased 42 percent in the past year.

And 85 percent of the time, those most victimized by the gangs are other Latino residents of the Valley.

On any given night, Esteban Martinez, 43, hears gunshots outside the North Hollywood home where he lives with his wife and four children.

"Everybody is afraid, but they don't speak (to police) because they are afraid to get into trouble with the gang members," Martinez said. "I'm worried about my family."

But immigrant advocates say it is all part of the hardship of America's assimilation process.

A landmark 1996 Pepperdine University study on Latinos found Latino immigrants settle longer in Southern California and tend to escape poverty - after 30 years, barely one in 10 is poor and three out of four are solidly middle class.

"Absolutely, the analyses of that study have borne out pretty damn well," says Gregory Rodriguez, the study's author whose book on Latinos, "Monstrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America," was published by Pantheon last year.

"More than anyone expected."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Support shown for state's immigrants

This campaign is promoting tolerance for immigrants. They want to show that most people are caring and hospitable and we are all created equal. DP

By Maddie Hanna, Globe Correspondent Nearly 100 people crowded the Grand Staircase in the State House yesterday in a show of support for immigrants across Massachusetts.

The goal of the "Welcoming Massachusetts" campaign, which organizers say is backed by more than 60 groups and 40 elected officials, is to promote tolerance and signal that support exists for legislation benefiting immigrants.

However, campaign leaders will not be pushing for that legislation anytime soon, said Maria Elena Letona, executive director of the Latin American organization Centro Presente.

"The truth is that the political environment has been completely and totally poisoned by the loud voices of a few," she said after a press conference yesterday.

The question of how the United States should handle illegal immigrants, a debate that has escalated in recent years, has at times provoked anti-immigrant sentiment in cities across the country.

Organizers must first detoxify that environment, Letona said, or efforts to enact legislation will fail.

"That's what this campaign is about," she said. "It's about demonstrating that most people in Massachusetts are hospitable, are caring. We're created equal, no exceptions."

In between chants of "Yes, we can! Si se puede!" and "Today we can, tomorrow we vote," speakers at yesterday's press conference focused on equality.

Support for immigration reform should not be considered a partisan political position, said Emily Szargowicz, government affairs program coordinator for the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston.

Rather, she said, it should be thought of as a return to a principle stated in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal."

"It is not to move to the left or the right, but to raise itself up to the basic truths this country was founded on," she said.

Pastor Gregory Bishop of the Lion of Judah Congregation in Boston observed that there is a complex relationship between the nation and its newcomers.

"We know we need immigrants," he said. "Yet with every wave of immigration, there has been hostility."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Iraqi immigrant family builds new life, career in Alaska

This Iraqi man, who was a translator for the US troops, is living in Alaska now with his wife and son. DP

By JILL FANKHAUSER, Alaska Star Hatem Saaed is a wanted man in Iraq. Terrorists are looking for him. But today he is a world away from insurgents and car bombers — he lives in Peters Creek.

Saaed and his family live here thanks to a special immigration visa available to Iraqi and Afghan people who have helped U.S. military forces in their countries.

Saaed, an electrical engineer, was a communications and infrastructure advisor in Baghdad for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helping to rebuild Iraq after the U.S. invasion in the spring of 2003. He had to get out, he said, because terrorists were interrogating his family — even taking his sister captive — to get information about his whereabouts. Saaed said someone leaked information about his job with the Americans to insurgents.

Working for Americans is dangerous, Saaed said. He never knew who to trust or who would turn on him, so he only told his family about his job. He taught them to say he worked in Jordan and they didn't know how to find him.
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The New Immigrants

This story is about a remarkable man, who came here illegally, learned English, got his citizenship, bought properties and became a successful member of the American middle class. DP

A Guatemalan immigrant's odyssey to the middle class
By Jack Spillane, Standard-Times staff writer Ervin Ramos remembers the day in 2000 when he purchased his first home.

It was a four-family apartment house on Ashley Boulevard that he had noticed was boarded up, but which he believed would provide him with the income necessary to make him independent of the fish houses, where he had worked long and hard for nine years.

The 27-year-old Guatemalan immigrant — just nine years after arriving in America illegally and not speaking a word of English — had both saved his money and done his homework.

Starting with only a sixth-grade education from his homeland, he had earned an American high school degree (not a GED), worked his way up into management at the fish houses, and finally achieved legal status after marrying his wife, a Puerto Rican native.

"It was very emotional for me," he remembered.

He said he dressed in a suit to go to the mortgage closing and took a briefcase in which he carried his important papers.

"I looked like an attorney.

"They saw this Spanish kid was really ready to take on the world. I was very sure of what I was doing."

The following year, Ervin Ramos purchased a second three-family investment property, and in 2003 he bought a condominium. And in 2004, he and his wife, Johanna, achieved the American dream, purchasing a single-family raised ranch on a quiet street in the North End.

It was a long way from the Guatemalan sugar-cane fields where he used to work as a temporary laborer to help his mother when he was a teenager.

He would travel to those fields in the southern part of his native country from his home in the north, but he said he could make little more than the equivalent of a dollar a day.

So poor was his family (his father died when he was 3) that Mr. Ramos remembered working in his uncle's corn fields and being paid in corn so that he, his mother and sister could eat the following day.
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