Saturday, September 20, 2008

Holland teachers' Mexico trip an eye-opening experience

These Michigan teachers spent two weeks in Mexico and learned what it is like to be a minority, not speaking the language and expected to learn in a classroom. DP

By STEPHEN KLOOSTERMAN, The Holland Sentinel HOLLAND MI - A two-week stay in Holland’s sister city of Queretaro, Mexico, put a group of Holland teachers in a tough situation this summer — they didn’t fit in and didn’t all speak the language well, but they were expected to learn.

The teachers’ troubles began to mirror the problems of some of their immigrant students in Holland.

Carol Smith, who had difficulty communicating with her host family, teaches English as a second language to non-native English speakers at Holland’s West Middle School.

“I spoke no Spanish and I was paired with a woman who spoke no English,” said Smith. “I now have empathy. I now have walked in the shoes of my ESL kids.”

The team of 14 teachers from Holland Public Schools and two from Holland Christian Schools traveled to Mexico in August to brush up on their Spanish, connect with the schools and swap teaching strategies.

Bob Zwiers, a Holland High School social studies teacher, had taught his students about how immigrants often feel isolated. Like an immigrant might, Zwiers started to feel as if everyone was talking about him as he walked around Queretaro.

“I’m walking through the airport, and I’m realizing that there are not many people in Mexico who are 6 foot 5 inches with red hair and blue eyes,” Zwiers said.

Holland High School English as a second language teacher Lynette Brander found herself exhausted after communicating all day — even though she spoke a good deal of Spanish. She says she’ll now try to find a variety of ways to teach her students so she doesn’t wear them out.
East K-8 Principal Nery Garcia lead the group of teachers.

Garcia spent her time establishing relationships with the schools in Queretaro. She and Queretaro administrators hope to eventually set up a blog and video conferences so that classes in Mexico and Holland can interact with each other.

More workers need English as a second language training

Another report showing that proficiency in English is necessary to get ahead in the workplace. It is to the advantage of employers to fund these programs, they will be able to have better trained employees too. DP

By Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune LAWRENCE — A new report shows that many workers in the state don't speak adequate English, which is holding them back from advancing in their jobs and making it harder for some companies to succeed.

The report, issued by the state's Workforce Investment Board, says the state and private employers need to fund a program to teach workers English and other job skills that would improve their chances of getting ahead while also improving the overall workforce in the state.

"We know that adult literacy and basic education are absolutely essential to a person's ability to earn a decent wage," said Suzanne Bump, secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. "We must create a better framework for providing adult-basic education and training that ensures working adults can get the training they need, and do so without having to confront countless barriers, which for too long has been the case."

The Workforce Investment Board released the report during a Wednesday morning meeting in Lawrence attended by Bump and Gov. Deval Patrick, along with other local and state officials and area business leaders. The meeting was held at Sal's Riverwalk on Merrimack Street.

The report comes on the heels of a study released two years ago showing that if not for the rising immigrant population in the state, the workforce in Massachusetts would have shrunk in recent years. According to that study, 70 percent of those immigrants lacked adequate English literacy skills. Another study, done in 2001, calculated that more than 3 million people in the state lack proficient English-speaking skills.

Meanwhile, many of them are working multiple jobs and raising families, the report says, meaning they don't have the time to attend English as a Second Language programs.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

My Dad, the illegal immigrant

This piece is written by the child of a man who came here illegaly in 1968. Now a citizen, this was the only way he could accomplish this. Please, read the whole story. DP

From a Chevy's trunk to a home in Orange County: It's still the American dream.
By Gustavo Arellano Millions of Americans point to Ellis Island as the place where their family was first introduced to the United States. Others trace their ancestry to ships that dropped anchor centuries ago in New England. Still more greeted Lady Liberty by way of airplanes and a visa. My father? He fondly remembers the comfortable space in the trunk of a Chevy Bel Air that was his ticket to the American dream.

In 1968, Dad left his dying village of Jomulquillo, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, to join his three older brothers in East Los Angeles. Eighteen years old, impetuous and with a fourth-grade education, Lorenzo Arellano would have had to do months' worth of paperwork to enter the United States legally -- and there was still no guarantee that he'd be allowed to enter. Youth and a growling stomach have little patience, so my father paid a white woman -- a U.S. citizen -- to sneak him into the United States. In Tijuana, he squeezed into the Chevy's trunk alongside a cousin and another man and prayed.

The Bel Air passed across the U.S.-Mexico border with no problem -- the agents just waved it through. It sped north on Interstate 5 for an hour until it came to the Border Patrol checkpoint just south of San Clemente. The car slowed to a crawl, then stopped. A moment of tension. The migra gave the Chevy the OK to leave.

"We made it!" the other man whispered to Dad and his cousin. They wouldn't speak another word until the woman finally stopped in Chinatown, where two of my uncles greeted young Lorenzo by taking him to a bar and drinking long into the night.

That wasn't the only time Papi entered the United States illegally. Twice, he climbed a fence from Tijuana and ran through the desert east of San Ysidro. Once, he spent a month in jail for using false documents. Perhaps Dad's most dramatic border crossing was when he crawled through a sewage-filled pipeline for about an hour to San Ysidro, in total darkness and with others ahead and behind him. The sewer emptied out near a McDonald's -- insert your own Big Mac joke here.

My father, now a naturalized citizen, never tires of telling these stories to anyone who'll listen -- his eyes light up, he gestures wildly and a smile always cracks wide. And, frankly, neither do I. Although millions of Americans might consider Dad a repeat violator of national sovereignty, I see in his borderland adventures the pluck of the Pilgrims, the resolve of a homesteader, the type of pioneer ethos that has fueled this country for so long. Frederick Jackson Turner was wrong; the American frontier will never close, not as long as there are people like my father who were and are willing to cross deserts, stuff themselves into cars, float across water -- just for the chance to establish themselves in this country and thrive.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sept. 11 attacks triggered chain of events that led Iraqi family to San Jose

This Iraqi family is having trouble assimilating. They are safe, but homesick and trying to adjust to this new life. Especially the wife, who was a lawyer and now is a stay at home mom. DP


By Lisa Fernandez, Mercury News The Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago today were life-changing — and not just for Americans.

They also led an Iraqi engineer and his lawyer wife on an improbable journey that landed them in a San Jose apartment — 7,500 miles from home. Just weeks after arriving in July, they're still trying to adjust to life in a strange land and find work.
Today, on the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, while much of America remembers and mourns the loss of nearly 3,000 everyday people killed by the terrorists, the Jasim family will continue with their struggle to adjust to life in Silicon Valley.

"I never thought I'd be living here,'' said Haitham Jasim, whose resettlement experiences have been chronicled in the Mercury News. "All I knew when I watched Sept. 11 on TV was that this day would not pass easily. If this could happen to a nation as strong as America, then this means no one has any power against God.''

It's with mixed feelings of gratitude and grief that the family left their home.
Jasim was one of thousands of Iraqis who went to work for the United States, turning them into prime targets for insurgents. The American government promised to resettle many of them.

Jasim's wife, Jamila Sabah Ghanm, 32, describes her new, "deathly quiet" life in a modest two-bedroom San Jose apartment off the San Tomas Expressway "in the middle of nowhere."

On one hand, no longer being employed as a high-profile human rights attorney allows her more time to spend with her children, Ahmed, 3, and Fadak, 8, a second-grader at Anderson Village Elementary School. On the other hand, she misses Baghdad.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Dodge City man shares stories of life growing up in Mexican Village

This resident has written a book about being born and growing up in the Dodge City ghetto called Mexican Village. A sad story about discrimination in our country. This discrimination continued until the residents who served in World War II returned and demanded change. DP

By ERIC SWANSON, Daily Globe When Fred Rodriguez was growing up in Dodge City's Mexican Village, he and his friends often drove to Hispanic dances in Garden City, Holcomb or Deerfield because they were not allowed to attend dances in their hometown.

But driving to those events in other cities helped the Mexican Village's residents forge closer relationships, Rodriguez said.

"We really had a togetherness in those days," he said. "Now that assimilation has taken place, that does not exist anymore. Relationships have fallen by the wayside."

Rodriguez, who is writing a book about daily life in the Mexican Village from 1930 to 1940, shared his memories of that era Saturday afternoon at the Dodge City Public Library. The program was part of the library's "We the People: Created Equal" grant, sponsored by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Mexican Village was a ghetto in the southeast corner of Dodge City, where many of the Santa Fe railroad's migrant workers made their homes. It was founded in 1909 and dissolved in 1955 after the railroad evicted its residents to expand operations in Dodge City.

Rodriguez was born in the village in 1929 and lived in Dodge City until after he graduated from high school, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He later graduated from nursing school and lived in Chicago for 27 years before returning to Dodge.

Rodriguez said the Mexican Village's residents were segregated from the rest of Dodge City, and discrimination was commonplace. For instance, he said, the area's residents were commonly referred to as "Mexican," even if they had been born in the United States.

He said the village's residents were not allowed to speak Spanish at school or in stores, even though that was the language they used at home. They were barred from using the public swimming pool, so they swam in the Arkansas River instead.

But he said the residents of the Mexican Village never spoke out against discrimination.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Maria Elena Salinas: Immigration still needs reform

Hopefully, there will be a solution to this immigration problem/issue in the next administration. But it is a bit unclear how or who can do it. DP

By Maria Elena Salinas Both Democrats and Republicans understand that there needs to be immigration reform in the next administration. However, they have very different approaches on how to go about it, and in the case of the Republicans, the position of the party does not necessarily reflect that of its presidential candidate, John McCain.

When you look at some of the hard-line positions advocated by the GOP, it's no wonder that only 6 percent of Hispanic voters think the Republican Party is better for Latinos, according to the latest Pew Hispanic Center survey. Republicans support English as the official language of the United States, urge the prompt completion of the border fence and propose reversing court decisions that, in their words, "make deportations more difficult." They want to deny federal funds to cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, they oppose in-state tuition rates for undocumented students – which is what the DREAM Act proposes – and they oppose amnesty.

Word is that there were major debates prior to the Republican Convention about preparing the party's position on immigration, because it is in direct conflict with that of its presidential candidate – or at least when it comes to the approach it is taking on the issue. The party describes immigration as a national security issue, while McCain recognizes the need to "enact and implement other parts of practical, fair and necessary immigration policy."
The wording in the Democratic platform is much more considerate than that of the Republicans in recognizing the ineffectiveness of the raids that "tear apart families and leave people detained without adequate access to counsel."

In interviews with Spanish-language media, Barack Obama has promised to implement immigration reform in the first year of his administration. However, Arnoldo Torres, an expert on Hispanic issues, wonders where immigration will fall in the list of priorities if the Democrats make it to the White House. "With all the problems they will be facing, like fixing the economy, the war in Iraq, oil prices and the home mortgage crisis, among others, when will they have time to deal with immigration?" he asks.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

The changing face of adult literacy

A story about a group most of us know about, telling how much they are helping immigrants now. And I assume, they can always use donations. DP

Celebrating its 25th year, the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle has been experiencing great challenges as its client base has grown dramatically and shifted to non-English speakers.

By Brian McNeill To practice her English, Ada Stiophen writes about the day’s events in her diary each night before going to bed.

“My English is not good enough,” she lamented in a recent entry. “Get to work in America, maybe I learn.”

Not long ago, Stiophen, a 35-year-old Chinese mother of one, was marketing manager at a fashion design company in Beijing.

Since arriving in Charlottesville with her husband and 13-year-old daughter in late 2007, Stiophen has sought to learn how to speak, read and write in English. Her goal, she says, is to pick up enough of the language so that she can work in America’s fashion industry.

“I like work,” she said. “I like a job. But I need to study English.”

Stiophen is one of 241 adult students who attend one-on-one English lessons at the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottes-ville/Albemarle.

Over the past 25 years, the organization has seen its mission evolve dramatically. It was founded in 1983 to improve the lives of the estimated 15 percent of Charlottesville-area residents who could not read or write in English. Most, if not all, of these residents were American-born.

No longer. While the region’s illiteracy rate still hovers around 15 percent, the population of the illiterate residents has shifted. Now, the vast majority of residents who need English tutoring were born in another country.

Nine years ago, only 3 percent of the literacy organization’s students were non-English speakers. In 2007, that figure was 67 percent.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

El Mirage Library helps immigrants gain residency

A terrific story about how much a library can help anyone. This family studied many books from their library, learned English with tapes and books, attended citizenship classes in the library and are now citizens and legal residents with all the freedom that gives them. DP

by Jeffrey Javier - The Arizona Republic Alma Romero was afraid to leave her home.

She and her husband, Ramon, were both illegal immigrants, and she would not go out for fear of being deported.

She had wanted to travel with her husband and two daughters for a long time, but she was afraid if they were pulled over they would be arrested and sent to Mexico. For 12 years, she hasn't seen her parents living in her home state of Sinaloa.

But after spending numerous hours studying English and learning about American culture, all by borrowing study books and a citizenship videotape from the El Mirage Library, she is now looking forward to a Christmas visit home.

The Romeros' story is one the library proudly points to as evidence of how a library can transform lives and become a vital part of the community it serves.

"I feel safer and more comfortable," Alma Romero said in Spanish as Karen Vargas, a library assistant, translated. "As soon as I got my residency, I got my driver's license."

Alma Romero said now that they are legal residents, she and her family feel free to access every opportunity the U.S. has to offer.

Ramon Romero gained his citizenship in April after attending citizenship classes at the library and the El Mirage Elementary School, and checking out books to learn English and how to take the American citizenship test.

Through Ramon Romero's citizenship, Alma has become a permanent resident who must wait five years before becoming a U.S. citizen.

"Citizenship means everything," Alma Romero said. "It means a better life, better work and a better future."

They checked out their first book to learn English in 1991. Ramon Romero joined a citizenship class being held at the library. Alma Romero enrolled in an English class there.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Morgan County multi-culture group shares lives

This growing group of immigrants meets a couple times a month to share stories and cultures and learn how to live together in this country. DP

Coffee and Culture meets first and third Fridays

By DAN BARKER, Times Staff Writer Morgan County natives met with people of Grenadian, Cuban and Mexican heritage Friday morning for the first Coffee and Culture session for this school year.

It was an animated time full of laughter and sharing of lives as they talked about their family traditions and where they came from.

Each first and third Friday people of different cultures come together at the Adult Basic Education building at 117 Main St. to talk about their backgrounds, their different cultures and their common experiences over coffee, juice and pastries.

Anyone is invited to share the time, said Brenda Zion, coordinator of OneMorgan County, which is hosting the coffees this year.

Shelly Davis is leading the relaxed meetings. She is also scheduled to teach OMC’s citizenship class and does a workplace English as a second language class, she said.

Instead of laying out ground rules for the discussions, which might involve controversial topics, Davis asked the group to split into pairs to talk about what respect means to them.

Their own definitions of respect are how they are asked to interact with their fellows at the meeting, she said.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

L.A. elementary school adds a year to keep students on track

The parents in this school realize their sixth-grade children are not ready to go to the middle school and have convinced their school to keep them until they finish sixth grade. DP

Eastside's Murchison campus opens this week with about 100 sixth-graders. A survey finds that 70% of the city middle schools serving low-income students are failing federal education standards.
By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Armando Sosa's elementary school is just a quick scramble up a steep dirt path and over a crosswalk from his home in Ramona Gardens, an Eastside housing project known for its crime and violence. If he's late, he can hear the school bell from his bedroom.

His mother, Liliana Martinez, loves Murchison Elementary but worries that Armando's zeal for learning will wither in middle school. She has seen too many children from the projects nose dive in sixth grade and begin gravitating toward the gang life that has devoured the youth of Ramona Gardens for generations.

So, along with other mothers, most of them Mexican immigrants struggling for a foothold in U.S. society, Martinez helped start a movement to keep children at Murchison at least through sixth grade. That is typically the first year of middle school.

When the new school year starts Wednesday, about 100 sixth-graders will be staying at Murchison, instead of being bused across the tracks to El Sereno Middle School, where parents and teachers say they face teasing and bullying because they are poor and come from a housing project.

"As parents, we want to have the kids close," said Martinez, who sells tacos in the neighborhood and does volunteer work at Murchison. "We know that if parents are involved in their kids' education, the kids will be successful in life. They'll go on to college, have a better future and eventually leave the projects."

The parents' longer-term goal is for Murchison to add seventh and eighth grades so that children like Armando, who is heading into fifth grade, will be able to stay until they are ready for high school.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

Schools prepare for more refugees

This school district are welcoming more than 100 refugees from Burma. It is expected that they will add much to their new community. DP

Additional Burmese expected in Rome, Utica school districts

By REBECCA CRONISER, Observer-Dispatch More than 100 new Burmese refugees will enter the Utica City School District this fall, and another 15 are expected in Rome.

To prepare, both districts are working to accommodate the needs of students — who do not speak English — as they look for more funding and new ways to teach the curriculum.

The influx is something the Utica schools are used to. Since 1979, officials have seen refugees entering the district from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.

The refugees have been good for the school district, Utica Superintendent Marilyn Skermont said.

“They bring a rich culture to the district,” Skermont said. “The diversity helps children learn tolerance and about differences in culture.”

About 1,200 refugee and immigrant students are enrolled in Utica’s ESL program, district ESL director Betsy LaPorte said, and about two-thirds are refugees.

Most are from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. That’s the largest group since the Bosnian refugee movement in the 2000-01 school year, LaPorte said.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

State agency honors refugee service provider

A wonderful woman who helped new refugees all her life has received a prestigious award for her work. DP

By Deepak Adhikari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette For the 19 years Charlotte Fox Zabusky oversaw refugee resettlement and legal immigration services at the Jewish Family & Children's Service of Pittsburgh, one chore never got old: picking up refugees at Pittsburgh International Airport.

"Imagine these people have come from an entirely different country and you're the first person to help them," the 76-year-old Squirrel Hill resident said. "It changes your life." And, of course, it changes theirs, too.

A daughter of Russian immigrants, Ms. Zabusky had the chance to help change a lot of lives over the years. For her work, she recently received the inaugural Excellence in Service award from the Pennsylvania Refugee Resettlement Program and the Bureau of Employment and Training, recognizing superior services by a refugee service provider.

"I was stunned and embarrassed," she said of learning about the award, presented to her in June. But her successor, JFCS refugee services director Leslie B. Aizenman, said it's only right that the first award went to Ms. Zabusky. "It's hard to imagine that anyone in the refugee resettlement business surpasses her in skills, insights, talent, commitment and experience.''

Ms. Zabusky grew up in Boston and attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., where she earned an undergraduate degree in English. She later received a master's in multilingual education from Fairleigh Dickinson College in New Jersey.

She always wanted to work with people from other countries -- she hates it when people call them "foreigners'' -- and realized her dream in 1970 when she started working with immigrants as director of the New American Program at Neighborhood House in Morristown, N.J.

For five years, she helped immigrants find jobs and apply for green cards necessary to establish a permanent residence. "Initially, I didn't understand them, but their hard work and love for the family inspired me," she said.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.