Friday, January 30, 2009

Colo. governor: Laws stopping immigrant workers

The governor of Colorado says his state is hurting because seasonal workers are not able to work there now. Some ski resorts could have stayed open longer last year if they had had moreworkers. A new guest worker program could be the solution. DP

MSNBC By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press

DENVER - Fewer immigrant workers are coming to Colorado because of tougher state laws, but the agricultural, ski and hotel industries are having a tougher time finding seasonal workers, Gov. Bill Ritter said Thursday.

Without citing statistics, Ritter said employers around the state complain they face worker shortages because of laws passed in 2006 to fight illegal immigration. He said efforts to fortify guest worker programs would offer a solution.

"I quite frankly think that one of the people who understood this issue best in public life was (President) George Bush," Ritter said. "George Bush had a real desire to tackle this issue."

Ritter noted that federal changes to seasonal worker visas means ski resort employees are losing their visas sooner. Anecdotally, he said Vail could have stayed open another month last year if its guest workers had lengthier visas.

At a minimum, Ritter said, successful immigration policy would "bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows."

"Find a way to acknowledge their existence here and the fact they're employed and contributing to the economy," he said.
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‘Progress by Pesach’ urged on immigration reform

A coalition of Jewish organizations is pressing for "humanitarian immigration reform". They want the raids on work places to stop as a way to control immigration. You can sign their petition at DP

by The Global News Service of the Jewish People

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- A coalition of Jewish organizations launched a campaign aiming for “Progress by Pesach” on comprehensive immigration reform.

On a Thursday morning conference call organized by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, members of the Progress by Pesach coalition said they would be urging President Obama to issue an executive order or other directive to Immigration and Customs Enforcement curtailing the use of raids as a primary tool of immigration enforcement. They also expressed hope for some movement in Congress on the issue, but HIAS President and CEO Gideon Aronoff said the group was not proposing a detailed bill because their main goal is “mobilizing the Jewish community to call for engagement on these issues.”

The group has set a goal of 10,000 signatures by April 8, the first night of Passover, on a petition encouraging "humanitarian immigration reform" and decrying the "policy of relying on raids and enforcement tactics as the sole means of controlling immigration" as a failure. Visitors to the group's Web site can also send a letter to the president and members of Congress that contains similar language.

"We are calling on the Obama administration to take whatever steps it can take in order to achieve some change in the use of raids," said Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action of St. Paul.

In addition to denying equal protection to those detained and splitting up families through jailing and deportations, he noted that immigration raids also are expensive for the government and seriously impede businesses trying to make products in a poor economy.

Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago, said members of the coalition would be encouraged to publicize the online petition and letters at their activities and other Jewish community events.

"Jewish law compels us to be engaged on this issue," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, citing the biblical command that "we must love the stranger, because we were once strangers in the land of Egypt."

The coalition also includes the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Union of Reform Judaism and a number of local organizations.

TEXASVOX, The Voice of Public Citizen in Texas

The primary focus of this group in Texas is on Environmental Issues. They want to concentrate on mobilizing the Latino/a community to help serve environmental initiatives in Texas.

I don't know that this community is very interested, yet, on environmental issues, but they should be. This affects all of us.

All the kids in my class should have health coverage

This is an excellent explanation why the SCHIP program is necessary. These kids need basic health care before their minor problems become major ones. DP

By Kate Yocum, who teaches English language development and literacy at William Walker Elementary in Beaverton, Ore.

I teach elementary school. And I want my kids to have health care coverage.

That’s why I hope the Senate will pass a bill that will enable more of my pupils to get the coverage they need.

For the most part, public schools are not health providers. But some of the students in the elementary school where I teach rely on whatever staff members can do to find eyeglasses or organize visits from the dental van.

The students in my classes are from low-income homes with parents who work at jobs that don’t offer affordable health care.

Many of these parents are immigrants. And their children, my students, are being penalized because of that.

See, the current law prohibits legal immigrants, including children, from accessing Medicaid or SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) funds.

Some of these students have suffered from acute problems, but more often are troubled by vision and hearing problems, dental problems, and anxiety and depression.

These are the kinds of health issues that, if overlooked, can have serious negative effects on a child’s progress in school.

The absence of health care is a huge but needless barrier for my students to overcome.

To make them wait five years is nothing short of cruel. During those five years, their health may seriously deteriorate.

We teachers do everything they can do to give our students the tools for success. We would never pass up an opportunity to remove a barrier to a student’s academic success.

That’s why I’m urging the Senate to get rid of this waiting period and allow all my students to access the health care they need.

New Brandeis students help teach English to staff

Students who are learning to teach English are tutoring people trying to learn English. An excellent combination which helps both sides. DP

By Jeff Gilbride/Daily News staff, GateHouse News Service

WALTHAM — Joana Maciel spent her lunch break Monday mapping out how Brandeis University junior Dara Yaffe can help her improve her English.

Maciel is a cafeteria worker and immigrant from Brazil.

``I've been involved with this for three months,'' Maciel said. ``They help me with verbs because I'm so bad at speaking verbs and reading and writing them.''

The Framingham resident said she's been living in the U.S. for 15 years but her English pronunciation has improved greatly in the last few months thanks to the program.

She is one of 25 people enrolled in the Brandeis English Language Learning Initiative. The program pairs Brandeis student with cafeteria and facilities workers at the college.

There are approximately 60 student tutors involved in the program this year. The first session of the semester was held Monday.

The Brandeis employees are tutored between two and five times per week.

``They send me e-mails with exercises for me to do,'' she said. ``I think it's a very nice program.'
Tutors, which are volunteers, attend a 90-minute training session before the sessions start for the year. English as a Second Language teachers are brought onto the campus near the start the semester and students are trained in different techniques to teach English.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Senate Likely to Pass Bill on Kids' Health Insurance

The SCHIP program will cover children of legal immigrants sooner than the present program does. Good news! DP

SCHIP Could Cover 11 Million Children

By Ceci Connolly, Washington Post Staff Writer

The Senate is expected to approve a bill today that provides health insurance to about 11 million low-income children, paving the way for President Obama to claim an early legislative victory and collect a quick down payment on his campaign pledge to guarantee care to every American child.

Senate Democrats, after easily defeating Republican attempts to narrow the bill yesterday, predicted they had the votes to renew and expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Presently, the $25 billion program covers 7 million children living near the poverty level who do not qualify for Medicaid. Under the Senate bill and similar legislation passed by the House, an additional 4 million youngsters would be eligible for discounted care at an added cost of $32 billion over 4 1/2 years. That would leave Obama about 5 million children short of his promise to ensure that every youngster in the country has health insurance.

Proponents say the need for a health-care safety net has become all the more urgent, given the dire state of the economy. Opponents argue that the Democratic legislation goes beyond the original intent of the program by including children of legal immigrants and some families with incomes as high as $60,000 a year.
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America's immigrants split by education levels

The Census Bureau has a new report, showing how diverse the education experience is for immigrants in this country. It compares different groups and is very interesting to see the breakdown. DP

Opportunities for schooling draw foreign-born to the United States

By Darnell Little and Kristen Kridel | Tribune reporters

America's foreign-born population is highly fragmented along educational lines, with a large portion of immigrants possessing relatively low levels of education while sizable elite have attained advanced degrees, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report found that a much smaller percentage of foreign-born adults had completed high school compared with their native-born counterparts—nearly 88 percent of native-born Americans versus 68 percent of foreign born adults.

But that 20 point difference shrinks close to zero when looking at adults who have attained a college degree. Almost 28 percent of native-born adults had at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 27 percent of foreign-born adults.

And slightly more foreign-born adults have an advanced degree (11 percent) than native-born adults (10 percent), according to the report, which describes the level of school completed by adults age 25 or older in 2007.

"The report does a pretty good job of highlighting just how diverse the educational experiences are of the foreign-born population," said Sarah R. Crissey, the report's author. "I think it's an interesting portrait of what our current work force is."

Junaid Afeef's parents moved their family from India to the United States when he was 4 years old for one reason only—education.

Despite growing up without the mentors and resources of his American-born classmates, Afeef went on to receive a law degree from American University.

"Education was the thing," said Afeef of Hoffman Estates. "There was nothing more important than getting educated, going to college, getting an advanced degree."
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Programs try to teach English to residents

This area in Texas has several programs to teach English to residents. In churches, and schools, with students from many countries. DP

By John Tompkins, The Facts

LAKE JACKSON — Shobha Bhange is educated as a design engineer, but for now it’s not doing her much good.

The 28-year-old mother of an 18-month-old child moved to the area from Pune, India, with her husband, who works as a chemical engineer for Dow Chemical Co.

She is in the country on a dependent visa but doesn’t have permission to work.

So Bhange spends Thursday mornings working on her English at the International Friends program at Lake Jackson Baptist Church. Bhange, whose first language is an Indian dialect called Marathi, has lived in this area for six months and is taking reading classes at the church to improve her speaking skills.

“I’m confused by American accents,” she said, pausing several times and repeating words to make sure her English was correct. “My main purpose is just to get where I communicate.”

According to a recent report, Bhange has plenty of company. More than 11 million people in the United States could not read or write basic English in 2003. The study, released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy two weeks ago, puts the illiteracy rate at 14 percent. The numbers showed no change in the national illiteracy rate since the last survey in 1992.
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Immigrants Of The Week:

Several immigrants to this country played a big part in the inauguration ceremonies. DP

Immigrants Of The Week: Isabel Toledo, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Jason Wu

by Greg Siskind

There are many immigrants who played big and small roles in today's Inauguration ceremonies. One person's work will be noticed by millions, but will largely not be attributed. I'm talking about Cuban-born Isabel Toledo who designed the dress worn by the new First Lady. The designer worked in the fashion house of Anne Klein for twenty years before going out on her own. She's become a favorite of Mrs. Obama and we're likely to see her creativity in the years to come.

Two of the artists featured in the Inauguration ceremony were famed Israel-born violinist Itzhak Perlman, French-born Yo-Yo Ma and Venezuelan-born pianist Gabriela Montero who played a new John Williams piece along with clarinetist Anthony McGill. Millions of people will now remember the virtuoso for his participation in this wonderful contribution to the day.

Well the new First Lady has turned another immigrant fashion designer in to an instant sensation. Tonight its 26 year old Jason Wu. Mrs. Obama is wearing a Jason Wu gown to ten Inaugural Balls this evening. The Taiwanese-born designer atttened New York's Parson School of Design and opened up his own fashion house three years ago.
Be sure to check out the pictures and listen to the music.

Language barriers challenge schools

When more than half of the students are learning English along with their other courses, many methods are used to teach them. DP

New teachers, methods needed to address rise in English learners

BY LORI YOUNT, The Wichita Eagle

In Elida Sandoval's sixth-grade math class, students use gestures when words fail.

The Pleasant Valley Middle School students, who are in their first year at an English-speaking school, read and visualize questions about fractions by using an interactive white board.

This classroom technology equips Sandoval and her colleagues to better communicate with a growing number of a students for whom English is not their first language.

About half of the Wichita middle school's more than 500 students are classified as English Speakers of Other Languages, making it one of the district's largest ESOL programs.

In the Wichita school district, the number of ESOL students has grown 78 percent in the past 10 years to more than 6,000 students, according to district records.

Those numbers are expected to grow steadily as formerly migrant families choose to settle in one location, experts say. To make sure ESOL students succeed, Wichita and schools nationwide will have to attract more ESOL teachers and implement innovative teaching techniques.

One of Wichita's initial steps has been to create a new administrative position to oversee the identification and evaluation of ESOL students.

"The No. 1 goal is to affect student achievement," said Karen Boettcher, the district's new ESOL director.
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Grand Prairie teen overcame language barrier to rise to top of his class

This student's success in learning English may help educators figure out how to teach better. It definitely takes hard work, practice and parents who encouraged him. DP

By STELLA M. CHÁVEZ / The Dallas Morning News

Knowing only Spanish wasn't the only obstacle Ruben Jauregui faced five years ago when he left Mexico to start a new life in Texas. He had to put up with Latino classmates who ridiculed him for wanting to speak English.

Ruben, now a 17-year-old senior at Grand Prairie High School, didn't let the teasing stop him. He mastered English, rose to No. 1 in his class and is deciding whether to accept a full scholarship from prestigious Rice University or ultraprestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"I think whatever you want to do is possible, and if you work hard, you can do it," he said, sitting in front of a computer in the school library. "It's about believing in yourself."

Ruben's transition from native Spanish speaker to stellar student provides solid clues to one of the most vexing mysteries in Texas public education: How do schools teach English to Spanish-speaking kids to prepare them for success? And what should the child and his family do to support the school's curriculum?

More than half a million public school students in Texas carry the "limited English proficient" label. The vast majority are Latino. And many of them understand little of what they hear in class from their English-speaking teachers.
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Son of Mexican immigrants secures legal status

This teenager worked hard to get his green card the right way. He should have been here all the time, but there was a mistake on the application years ago and he had to start over again. DP

By CATHY DYSON, The Free Lance-Star

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (AP) — Fernando Guadarrama was 12 when he decided he couldn't stay in America illegally any longer.

Years earlier, his father, Gustavo, immigrated from Mexico and became an American citizen. His father filed paperwork to bring his wife, Margarita, and son into the country, but Fernando said because there was a mistake on his application, permission came through for his mother only.

So, Fernando, now 15, became one of at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Some estimates suggest as many as 20 million people lack proper documents.

Even as a child, the Spotsylvania County student recognized the stigma of his status.

"You feel like you're less than other people," Fernando said. "Like they're one step above you."

Fernando also was concerned about his future. The only way he could go to college and fulfill his dream of becoming a dentist was as a legal resident.

When other boys were worrying about sports or video games, Fernando convinced his parents to let him go back to Mexico. There, he would wait for his application to be processed so he could enter America legally.

At 12, Fernando moved in with his elderly grandparents, on a ranch outside Mexico City.

As the waiting turned to years, the boy became depressed and homesick.

Several times, people making the illegal trek into the United States asked him to come along.

Fernando missed his parents and younger brother and sister — both born in America — so much, he almost packed his bags.

"But I had to be strong," he said.

Fernando finally got an appointment at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Juarez.

This past September, almost three years after he left Spotsylvania, he sat through a week's worth of appointments. He was fingerprinted and interviewed and received seven immunizations in one arm.

He left on Sept. 25 with a "green card," as a legal permanent resident of the United States.
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Lost in transition

A sad story about some of the 1.3 million highly educated and skilled immigrants in our country who are working as cashiers and stockers. Such a waste, we need them. In most cases they need help with English and upgrading to U.S. standards. They are unhappy here, but can't go home to their previous professions. DP

Many immigrants find it difficult to rebuild careers in US

By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff

A doctor from Afghanistan runs a cash register at the Walmart in Lynn. A former two-star general from the same country works as an $11-an-hour security guard in Somerville. And a onetime high-powered lawyer from Albania labored in a Worcester factory before being laid off.

For them, America was a path to safety, even while it was a huge step down in status.

In Afghanistan, Ahmad Darvesh wore a crisp, white coat and a stethoscope as he diagnosed emergency room patients suffering from bullet wounds or pneumonia. In Lynn, with a Walmart badge clipped to his shirt collar, he strikes up brief conversations with customers as he scans their purchases. The customers do not know it, but he chats because he misses talking to his patients.

"I'm tired," the soft-spoken 50-year-old said in an interview in his Chelsea apartment, with his diplomas and photographs arrayed on a folding table in the kitchen. "I'm tired of working in a job that is only for the money. I'm a doctor. . . . I could be more useful."

Across Massachusetts and the nation, 1 in 5 college-educated immigrants and refugees are unemployed or toiling in low-level jobs because they cannot easily adapt their skills in the United States - a phenomenon the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute called "brain waste" in a recent study.

It is an age-old quandary for immigrants who hold doctoral degrees and speak multiple languages, but aren't fluent in English and lack professional networks to steer them to jobs. Now, the problem is getting newfound attention from state officials who are considering expanding programs as immigrants in Massachusetts clamor for more training and assistance.

Many immigrants are able to rebuild their careers here, while some return home, frustrated. But others do neither; they lack the ability to find work in their chosen fields and are fearful of returning to their native countries because of violence or economic crises.
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In School for the First Time, Teenage Immigrants Struggle

Many immigrant children have never been to school, don't know how to read their own language and are now trying to learn English. This is especially hard for older teenagers, who are put into high school and don't know how to learn or study. DP


Fanta Konneh is the first girl in her family to go to school. Not the first to go to college, or to graduate from high school. Fanta, 18, who grew up in Guinea after her family fled Liberia, became the first to walk into a classroom of any kind last year.

“Just the boys go to school, so I always knew I was left out,” said Fanta, a student at Ellis Preparatory Academy in the South Bronx. “But here, I am trying. I can say many things I did not know before. I can learn things more.”

New York City classrooms have long been filled with children from all over the world, and the education challenges they bring with them. But hidden among the nearly 150,000 students across the city still struggling to learn English are an estimated 15,100 who, like Fanta, have had little or no formal schooling and are often illiterate in their native languages.

More than half of these arrive as older teenagers and land in the city’s high schools, where they must learn how to learn even as their peers prepare for state subject exams required for a diploma.

“They don’t always have a notion of what it means to be a student,” said Stephanie Grasso, an English teacher at Ellis Prep, which opened this fall and is New York’s first school devoted to this hard-to-educate population. “Certain ideas are completely foreign to them. They have to learn how to ask questions and understand things for themselves.”
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Too broke to buy a ticket home, Valley's immigrant day laborers just hang on

These workers used to make enough money to send home and support their families there. Now they can't even make enough to pay for a ticket to go home. DP

By Tony Castro, Staff Writer

They are down and out in the United States and homesick for Guatemala. And El Salvador. And Honduras. And Mexico.

And they would go back without even an American penny in their pocket if only they had enough to get home.

They are the discouraged and disillusioned Central American and Mexican day laborers who, in a sign of how hard times are in this economy, find themselves so broke they can't send much, if any, money back to loved ones they haven't seen for years.

"We have lost our reason for being here," laments Jose Perez, 42, a Guatemalan living in the San Fernando Valley who vows he will be back home by next Christmas - and wishes he could leave sooner.

"I would leave today, with just the clothes on my back, if I had the money. It wasn't that long ago that I used to put money aside to send home. Now I'm saving it in hopes that I can go back home."

Perez, who hasn't seen his wife and family in five years, is among the hundreds of day laborers who gather each morning at the same corners in various parts of the Valley, hoping to find work cleaning yards, hauling furniture, painting houses or doing light construction.

But in an increasingly tight economy, homeowners are now handling many of the tasks they used to hire day laborers to perform.

"The dream I had when I left Guatemala to come to America is now gone," said Perez with a trace of bitterness.

He is not alone.
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Neb. woman gives English lessons to neighbors

This is a wonderful story about a woman who is helping the people in her neighborhood learn English. Every neighborhood needs someone like her. DP

By CINDY LANGE-KUBICK, Lincoln Journal Star

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Can you spell neighborly?

Nadzeya Zakharchenia can't.

The Ukrainian woman in Carol Newsom's kitchen doesn't know that word. She probably can't pronounce it.

But every Tuesday morning she comes to this neighborly woman's house on the southwest edge of town to learn English.

She smiles. Takes out her homework. Sits in a sunny kitchen with plants and cats and a round table set up like a classroom.

When Carol moved here nearly five years ago, the only thing outside her back door was dirt.

Then, slowly, her street began filling with modest ranch houses like hers.

And Carol began to notice something.

The woman next door who couldn't understand her greetings and needed her daughter to translate.

And the young mother down the street who knew all of two English words. Hello. Goodbye. Nothing in between.

She noticed more and more new houses filling up with new Americans.

Carol is a 52-year-old woman who saw a need. She didn't call social services. Or write a letter to the editor. Or shake her head and shut her front door because her neighbors couldn't talk weather over the fence.

She did something.

Which is why Nadzeya is here. And Lyudmila Yenmakovich, the young mother who arrived before her, bearing chocolates and candles for her tutor.

In all, Carol gives weekly English lessons to 16 people in her neighborhood, mostly weekday mornings, but Saturdays, too, for people who work.
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Nashville business and city leaders cheer defeat of 'English only' measure

Nashville voters rejected this measure in a special election. The person who proposed it was upset with illegal immigration and thought it would encourage immigrants to learn English, but happily, the voters knew that it would cause more problems than it fixed. DP

Opponents feared the change would put up a 'go away' sign in the city where 1 in 10 residents are foreign born and international businesses keep the economy humming.

By Richard Fausset, Reporting from Atlanta

Modern-day Nashville is a city that thrives as much on global trade as it does on its trademark twang.

So for many business and government leaders, it was a great relief Thursday night when voters rejected a ballot measure that would have limited local government to conducting its business in English.

The proposal sparked debates familiar to many American communities -- about the need for immigrants to learn English, for example, and the cost of translation services in a community where as many as 1 in 10 residents are foreign-born.

But opponents also focused heavily on the damage the measure could do to Nashville's image. In recent years, the city famous for its country music industry has also attracted hundreds of international companies and seen a surge of legal and illegal immigrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

At the same time, it has strived to market itself in a more cosmopolitan way: About five years ago, Nashville changed its nickname from "Music City U.S.A." to "Music City" -- because "the 'USA' seemed to link us more with the 'Hee Haw' brand," explained Butch Spyridon, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau president.

On Friday, Spyridon was one of a number of public officials who cheered the defeat of the English-only measure, saying it was "not who we are as a city, or as a community. . . . It's a creative community, and it's a diverse community."

Business owners like Tom Oreck concurred. "One of my great concerns about this was the message it would send -- one that took down the 'welcome' sign and put up a 'go away' sign," said Oreck, chairman of Nashville-based Oreck Corp., the vacuum-cleaner manufacturer. "I feel that that could have really hurt Nashville's ability to grow in a healthy fashion."
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Burmese refugees fearful of new life in USA

This young family is happy to leave the refugee camp but are also worried about being able to adjust to live in the U.S. They have lived 20 years with no rights, and don't know if they can manage being free. DP

By Jesse Wright, Special for USA TODAY

MAE SOT, Thailand — The bus rumbled to life, and Hsar Say took one last look at the only home he'd known for the past 20 years. The lime green rice paddies, the banana trees, the bamboo huts he shared with the other refugees — they were all part of his past.

In a few hours, Say would board a plane to America with his wife and two kids. Whether that was a good thing, he wasn't sure.

"Basically I think (America) will be better than a refugee camp," he said. "In a refugee camp, you have no rights. You are put in a cage. It's illegal to travel outside the camp, so it's very different from being a human."

On the other hand, Say was a very important man — a teacher — among the other Burmese refugees at the Mae La camp in western Thailand. His wife taught adult literacy classes. He confessed to being "a little afraid" that in America, they'd end up like his wife's cousin, who moved to Kentucky and toils in a clothing store packing boxes.

"Maybe in America, I can work at a job to help other people," he said hopefully. "I like social work."

Such are the dilemmas facing Say and the 15,000 other refugees from Burma who have arrived in the USA since 2006, making them the biggest single group of refugees to enter the country during that time, according to the State Department.

Those who have escaped from Burma, also known as Myanmar, are in many respects a special case: They have fled a military regime that the Bush administration had singled out as one of the most brutal in the world. A cyclone in May killed at least 85,000 people and sent even more Burmese streaming across the border into Thailand, where there are about 100,000 refugees packed into nine camps.
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Spanish professor receives nomination for prestigious literary prize DP

This professor at Western Oregon University, a native of Peru, has been nominated for a prestigious literary award. Congratulations. DP

Eduardo González-Viaña listed among nominees for 2009 Impac Dublin Literary Award

by Erin Huggins

Spanish Professor Eduardo González-Viaña has done it again.

Internationally-renowned, with over 25 published books, González-Viaña was recently nominated for the 2009 Impac Dublin Literary Award for "Dante's Ballad," the English translation of "El Corrido de Dante."

Carrying one of the richest prizes for books written or translated in English, the Impac Dublin Award boasts a 100,000 euro purse and recognizes what González-Viaña terms as "some of the most important writers in the planet."

The 2009 Impac Dublin's long list of nominees, consisting of 147 authors, was released on Nov. 10, with the short list to appear on April 2 and the winner to be announced on June 11.

A native of Perú, González-Viaña has been teaching at Western since 1993.

"The best dinstinction of my life is to be a professor at Western Oregon University," González-Viaña said.

Having lived in countries around the world, González-Viaña said the warm and friendly atmosphere at Western, combined with the supportive staff, contribute to the creation of his writings.

"Oregon is a beautiful place where it is possible for me to write with peace in my soul," he said.

Dr. Stephen Scheck, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said, "Professor González-Viaña is one of those indefatigable individuals who somehow squeezes 25 hours into every workday. His creative work is outstanding--as demonstrated by the numerous international recognitions he has garnered over the years."
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Nebraska Faith Leaders Call for Immigration Reform

Now that there is a new administration in Washington, many people are hoping for immigration reform. DP

Reporter: 10/11 News

Nebraska faith leaders gathered in Lincoln as part of a nationwide movement aimed at encouraging meaningful immigration reform.

"Today we stand in the very heart of a nation that believes that all people even immigrants are created equally," said Rev. Dr. Chuck Bentjen of the State Policy Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. "That they are endowed by their creator with certain and equal rights that among these are life liberty and pursuit of happiness."

With the beginning of a new Congress, presidential administration and the Nebraska legislative session, faith leaders are calling on elected officials to end divisive local proposals and immigration raid tactics. They say those methods tear apart Nebraska families and communities.

"I don't think we can get around breaking laws but I think we have to understand that the law and the system is not necessary a just system," said Bentjen. "It not necessary a system that enables people to use it lawfully. And so it encourages people to break those laws the system itself."

Leaders from across the state representing many faiths will gather midday Thursday to call on Nebraska's federal delegation to enact rational reform and for the Nebraska Legislature to use its voice to push for federal reform.

Thursday's event follows a Washington, D.C., gathering at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama’s inauguration becomes learning experience for Glenwood Springs High School students

Teachers all over the U.S. are using the inauguration to teach different points in their classes. And all students are learning about possibility and politics and immigrants and many other things, along with history. DP

By John Stroud, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

What do teaching a foreign language to high school students and watching U.S. political history as it unfolds have to do with one another?

For Glenwood Springs High School French teacher Sara Malnati, there is a common thread between the art of language and the historic event that played out in Washington, D.C., Tuesday with the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.

“This is certainly a historic event. Anything else I would have to teach my students today is not as important as this moment,” said Malnati, whose French I students watched the inauguration ceremony on television Tuesday morning in the classroom of social studies teacher Joe Rankin.

As newly sworn-in President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were shown standing alongside former President George Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, Malnati asked her students what message that portrayed.

“Unity,” one student replied. “That they get along,” said another.

True, Malnati said, but it also serves to communicate to the rest of the world that the United States has a peaceful transfer of power when it comes to changing leaders.

“When you teach a language, that’s really about teaching communication,” Malnati said. “And what better way to teach communication than by observing the events going on around you, and using that as a way to teach the target language.”

GSHS senior Shannon O’Gara-Standiford took that message to heart.

“We talked about how (Obama’s election) affects us, and how other countries look on us,” she said. “I’m so excited. It restores my faith in humanity.”

Senior Elizabeth Lopez will use Obama’s inaugural address as the basis for a presentation she will give to her ELL (English Language Learner) classmates on Wednesday.

“Minorities as a group can look at this and have more desire to be something bigger, and know that they can achieve it now,” she said through an interpreter, fellow senior Anna Chavira. “As daughters of immigrants, it means hope to us.”
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Orange County resident aims for the stars

This university student tells about the teachers he had when he was younger, who helped him appreciate education and succeed. Too many kids drop out of high school, they need more teachers like he had, obviously. DP

Cal State student credits teachers in middle school and high school for setting him on a path to academic success.


Hector Ramos was the first in his family to graduate from high school and attend college. By next winter, he plans to have completed a Cal State Fullerton bachelor's degree in three majors – philosophy, psychology and political science.

As a child, Ramos wasn't expected and didn't have aspirations to reach for such goals. His mother, an immigrant from Mexico, usually worked two jobs while raising Ramos and his two younger brothers. Before she became a naturalized citizen, she often went unpaid after fleeing from her garment factory jobs because of immigration raids. The family was poor and lived in overcrowded apartments in a part of Santa Ana where gangs, crime and drugs were neighborhood staples.

But Ramos liked to learn, and though he sometimes ditched classes to party with his friends, and his grades fluctuated wildly, he managed to get into honors classes. It was a middle school English teacher's words that compelled him to get serious about school.

In the fall, Ramos received the William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement. He was selected for the award, which includes a $10,000 scholarship, for his "superior academic performance and exemplary personal accomplishments."

The 23-year-old senior said education has been the key to beating the odds. Studies have shown that the poor in America are less likely to get college degrees. In 2003, 8.6 percent of the nation's poorest young adults earned bachelor's degrees by age 24, according to Postsecondary Education Opportunity, a higher education research group.
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Obama oath sounds in immigrants' hearts

A group of people watched the inauguration together in a Pita Grill in CA: students and teachers in an adult ESL class, recent immigrants, people born here and people here 25 years. This is the American Way. DP

By John Bogert, Columnist

There were people I wanted to reach on Tuesday morning, people who died long ago from being black, people who never understood why it took the vast weight of government to make it so a black man could eat a dinner out, and people who just never would have dreamed that a smart cookie of wonderfully confused heritage could finally transcend all of that.

If I can't be with those ghosts, I might as well be here on this warm inauguration morning, in the back room of a Middle Eastern restaurant owned by a ball-cap-wearing Muhammad Jaradat. A man 25 years in this country who, smelling change on the wind, threw open his Torrance Boulevard LaZeez Pita Grill to a bunch of Torrance Adult School English as a Second Language students because the big-screen images filtering down the satellite dish just begged to be shared.

"This is history," said Jaradat, an American citizen now living through a big business cycle downturn. "There has been so much damage done to our country in the last eight years, so much that needs to be healed here and abroad. And I think that this is the man to do it. Still, never in my life, never in 1,000 years, did I ever expect to see a man of color doing this. This is why I invited everyone here."

Meanwhile, all 30 people in the room - short-term visitors, recent immigrants and job transplants - are being guided through the historic mega-morning by English teachers Susan Ross and Linda Hargrove.

"This is the oath of office," said Ross, passing out small slips of paper bearing a photo of President-elect Obama and the 35-word oath he would take. "Standing out in my memory are the `I Have a Dream' speech, the JFK assassination and this, the three defining moments of my life."

For Hargrove, too, this is all about exposing her adult students to the real event, in real time and it seemed to be working.

President Obama calling our "patchwork heritage" a "strength, not a weakness" caught the attention of Siva Prasad Thota, a retired government worker from India who is here for a few months just absorbing American culture.
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More immigrants can help economy grow

We have to grow our economy in order to recover from the financial situation now. One thing needed is a large workforce and that requires more immigrants. This writer says mmigrants would also help fill some of the empty houses we have now. DP

by Jay Hancock

So President Barack Obama, presiding over what will surely be the biggest budget deficits in history, doesn't want the country to go bankrupt.

"If we do nothing, then we will continue to see red ink as far as the eye can see," he said at a news conference two weeks ago. He'll summon a "fiscal responsibility summit," he told The Washington Post last week. America, he said, must make "hard decisions" about Medicare, Social Security and other expensive programs.

Hard decisions, of course, will include cutting costs and benefits, which will anger Democrats. We'll also need to raise taxes, which will anger Republicans.

But the hardest decision of all may be about increasing immigration, which even Obama doesn't seem to want to talk about. The retreat from trillion-dollar deficits must include recruiting millions of new Americans to share in this country's bounty as well as the cost of running it.

Immigrants have freed the United States from tight spots before. Properly managed, a doubling or tripling of immigration in the coming decades can help get us out of this one.
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Immigrants foreign by birth, American by ritual

This is an interesting piece about how, even though immigrants are born somewhere else, they become American, especially when they get involved in politics. DP

by Hector Tobar

I went on a secret mission last week. Undercover and unannounced, I arrived at the little Art Deco cube that is Maywood City Hall.

Supposedly I had stepped deep into the heart of "alien" America. This is the city, after all, which in 2006 declared itself a "sanctuary" where undocumented immigrants need not fear arrest.

Last month, the leader of the sanctuary movement emerged victorious in a City Council recall election. On YouTube, I watched Felipe Aguirre celebrate his victory, addressing his followers with full-throated, populist bluster in Spanish.

I was expecting to see more Spanish-language fireworks at a City Hall that's seen its share of scandal in recent years.

But when I sat in the back row at the meeting of the Maywood City Council, I saw a ceremony that began with a sacred oath -- in English. "I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands . . . "

Aguirre, a Chicago native raised in Mexico City, is a burly guy with a thick mustache, and he's one of those rare people who speak English and Spanish with equal fluency. From the council dais, I watched him join in as loud as anyone, with his hand over his heart: " . . . one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

On this day of rituals, as we watch our new president take the oath of office, your humble columnist would like to take a moment to celebrate the many civic ceremonies and practices that unite us as a republic: from the pithy eloquence of the Pledge of Allegiance to the prosaic instructions of Robert's Rules of Order.

Maywood is an overwhelmingly Latino town tucked between the industrial neighborhoods of southeastern Los Angeles County.

Spanish is the dominant language of the streets, but allegiance to the rituals of the American republic remains alive and well -- even though a lot of people who've read this column in the first weeks of its existence seem to think the two can't coexist.
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Immigrant students find help in Messiah Village

These two students, who were tutored by the residents of this retirement community when they first moved here, are now learning about a possible career in social work. DP

by Amanda Palleschi

Two Mechanicsburg High School students spent the day shadowing employees at Messiah Village in Mechanicsburg as part of the high school's career shadowing program.

Ekram Ali, 18, and Shartu Usman, 17, sisters who moved to the United States from Ethiopia five years ago, got involved with Messiah Village through a tutoring program for Somalian and Ethiopian immigrants called the Somali Refugee Tutoring Program.

The program was founded by Madina Hasson, a Somali immigrant who founded the nonprofit Somali Community of Central Pennsylvania. Messiah Village residents like Ruth Kumler, 80, began tutoring through the program this year.

Kumler and a few fellow Messiah Village residents, many of them retired Mechanicsburg teachers, decided to become tutors in Hasson's program in September, traveling to Mechanicsburg Middle School two afternoons a week to help the students with homework.

Ali and Usman began thinking about post-high school plans and careers thanks in part to Kumler. On Monday, they visited Kumler at Messiah Village as part of Mechanicsburg High School's Project Dreams career shadowing program. Usman shadowed in the center's accounting department, while Ali learned about social work in the residential living department.

District gets ESL grant

Children from 32 countries are in these schools and the state has decided to give more money for their education. I hope all states can and will do the same. We want these future taxpayers to have a good and complete education. DP


A new grant will help the Erie School District teach English to children from other countries.

The $175,000 grant from the state Department of Education will cover about one-tenth of what Erie will spend to teach English to more than 800 students this year. The total cost of the English as a Second Language program cost will be $1.7 million, schools Superintendent James Barker said.

"It's the classic example of a mandate without money, and the taxpayer winds up paying the entire bill," Barker said. "This grant helps, but there needs to be a state funding formula that considers the number of students learning English in each district."

In 1992, Erie had about 100 students whose native language was not English, Barker said.

This year, for the first time, there are more than 800.

The primary language of many of those students is Spanish. A number of others speak eastern European languages, including Russian.

"It's a very diverse group," Barker said. "We have students from 32 countries speaking 26 languages."

Twenty-six teachers, at least one in every Erie school, teach English to immigrant and refugee students. Six classroom aides, classroom assistants and a parent-school liaison also work in the program, Barker said.

Because of the program's size, an administrator may soon be needed to oversee it, Barker said. That administrator would work with teachers, staff and agencies that support immigrant families, including the International Institute, the Hispanic American Council and Catholic Charities.

The school district has also considered operating a separate school for students who do not speak English.

The $175,000 department of education grant is new, Barker said. The district hopes to qualify for more money in coming years.

"It's a beginning of a recognition of districts like Erie that are places where the world literally wants to come because of our services," Barker said. "We're hoping that state money continues to come to Erie, too."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Asian-American political profile rising in SF and beyond

Chinese-Americans are getting more involved in politics and government service. This is good for our country. DP

By JULIANA BARBASSA Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO—When three newly elected Chinese-American supervisors climbed on stage in Chinatown, flanked by dragon dancers and lit up by camera flashes, they were hailed for making history in a city their forebears shaped since the Gold Rush Days.

The November sweep was topped this month when David Chiu was elected president of the Board of Supervisors—the second most powerful position in local government.

It is fitting that San Francisco, which is 34 percent Asian and home to the nation's oldest Chinatown, is leading the way on Asian-American political representation. But the country's fastest growing minority group is also reaching new heights on the state and national stage.

Experts say their newfound clout is not due to numbers alone.

The political engagement of Asian-Americans is growing. Many immigrants are earning citizenship. Community organizations are mounting voter registration drives. Ethnic media increasingly are endorsing candidates and covering political campaigns. And politicians are scoring victories, even in areas without a strong Asian electorate.

Countrywide, there are more than 2,000 Asian and Pacific Islander elected and appointed representatives, according to UCLA's Asian American Studies Center. In California, Asian-Americans hold two seats in the state Senate, 10 in the Assembly, plus the posts of State Controller and Board of Equalization chief.

A decade ago, there was only one high-ranking Asian-American official, the state treasurer.

"We're finally gaining full admission to the club," said David Lee, who teaches political science at San Francisco State University.

The Asian-American population has expanded from .5 percent in 1960—prior to repeal of restrictive immigration laws—to 5 percent now. The U.S. Census projected they will grow to 8 percent by 2050.

A push by voter education groups to turn new citizens into voters has helped make this ethnic group a political force in California, where their numbers are largest.
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Immigrants in the 313: 'This is Where the Future Begins'

This story is about Detroit, but is the story of this country. PLEASE read the whole thing and think about your city. DP

By: Walter Wasacz

You know it when you see it -- or better yet -- immerse yourself in it.

It can be charted, measured and put under statistical scrutiny, but a neighborhood that benefits from the presence of immigrants is best appreciated in real time, on its own terms, in dramatic living color.

The early voice of Detroit was French, Irish, German, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, Spanish and Yiddish. Many of those voices have disappeared into the greater American tapestry, but others came to replace them: Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian, Arabic, Urdu, Bengali and others. And to ensure urban vitality in the region, history suggests there need be a lot more to come in the future.

Take a stroll down Vernor, come to the Junction intersection and look around, left, right and back. This urban panorama reveals a variety of human and business activity; professional services, clothing stores, markets, restaurants, bars -- people, people,everywhere. At the southwest corner stands the neighborhood's centerpiece, the Most Holy Redeemer Parish, which serves as a house of worship, elementary school and community center.

"We call it our anchor store because it is the real heart of the community," says Kathy Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association, a group that has lent support and services to the neighborhood since 1957. "Holy Redeemer is where the people who live here come together for weddings, baptisms, funerals, religious holidays and all kinds of neighborhood programs. It's been the magnet for activity for a long time."

The parish was organized by immigrants -- Irish Catholics moving west from rapidly populating Corktown. Germans, Poles, Hungarians and other Europeans soon followed, creating one of the 19th century's largest American church congregations housed in one of its most ornate -- and largest -- cathedrals. Beginning in the early part of the 20th century, the demographics of church and the surrounding neighborhood went through even more interesting diversification.

Mexicans began arriving for migrant agricultural jobs and for work in the auto plants that were just a streetcar or bus ride away. Those factories included General Motors plants, the Cadillac Fleetwood and Clark St., and the massive Ford Rouge on the west end of Vernor in Dearborn.
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African immigrants help shape Portland's small black community

This section of Portland has turned into the best place for African immigrants to live and open businesses. DP

Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian

Nearly all of Sierra Leone immigrant Jestina Fasasi's clients at Salon Radiance are African American. Fasasi's salon is one of a handful of African-owned businesses on Killingsworth Street between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Michigan Avenue.

In a stylish beauty salon on Killingsworth Street, Snoop Dogg thumps over the buzz of hair dryers and Barack Obama fliers are tacked to the mirrors. Salon owner Jestina Fasasi peeks through a plume of smoke rising from the hot curlers and gossips in a thick Sierra Leone accent with her African American client.

To the shop's left, an Ethiopian cafe bustles with a lunchtime rush, and the Nigerian-owned African International Food Market displays a sign saying the owner will return in an hour. Tucked in the heart of Portland's traditionally black neighborhoods, a little Africa is emerging.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Sacramento to Killingsworth streets and west on Killingsworth to Michigan Avenue, about a dozen African-owned businesses share the streets with longtime soul food joints and black barbershops and the new feminist bookstores and posh cafes ushered in by gentrification.

The African grocers, restaurants and beauty shops create a sharp visual of how Portland's black population is changing. As more African Americans move to the suburbs, an infusion of African immigrants is the only thing holding Portland's small black population of 35,000 steady.
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Experts: U.S. must help immigrants assimilate

Another report that shows that our country does not help immigrants assimilate as much as it should. Many seem to think it is automatic, but it is very difficult, and without help, it takes 2-3 generations to accomplish. DP

By Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer

The United States has one of the world's most generous immigration policies, but it has done too little to help new immigrants fit into society, scholars and advocates say.

Now, at the end of President Bush's eight years in office, a federal task force he convened is echoing those concerns, saying, "Government can do more to help newcomers learn English, learn about America and promote integration across our nation."

On the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, with immigrants arriving in high numbers and anxiety in some quarters about a fracturing American identity, the issue is pressing, but some observers wonder whether Obama will take up the issue or put it behind more urgent concerns.

"It's a roadmap for future administrations on how to strengthen the assimilation of new Americans," said the report's lead author, Alfonso Aguilar, in his final days as chief of the Office of Citizenship at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The report, "Building an Americanization Movement for the Twenty-first Century," released late last month, noted that "while immigration is a federal responsibility, immigrants do not settle in the federal sphere, but rather in cities and local communities."

Many examples in San Francisco bear that out. At the Chinatown campus of City College, thousands of immigrant adults attend classes in English and civics each week, preparing for their citizenship exams. The scene is repeated at eight other campuses around the city, where vocational classes also teach immigrants and others job skills to help them join the American workforce.

In San Francisco and across the Bay Area and the nation, community colleges and adult schools are on the front lines helping foreigners become full participants in American society, but they're stretched to bursting.

"We always have waiting lists," said Joanne Low, Chinatown campus dean. "Our funding formula results in us getting less money each year for civic participation."
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'I want to teach at your school'

This new teacher, a Cambodian immigrant, has gone back to his California childhood school to teach. Even though it has horrible memories (his sister was murdered there), he is now teaching third grade, and wants to be as good a teacher as the ones he had. DP

By Roger Phillips, Record Staff Writer

As children line up for a playground game or joke around with their friends, 28-year-old Rann Chun stays alert.

He is staring in the distance at the fence at the back of the playground at Cleveland School, making sure nothing unusual is going on. He knows what can happen.

"I'm always looking at every direction and always scanning and just making sure that I look out at every direction," said Chun, a third-grade teacher at Cleveland. "I think it's not a bad idea."

Twenty years after his 6-year-old sister, Ram, died at Cleveland - one of five children killed by Patrick Purdy on Jan. 17, 1989 - Chun is in his fourth year as a teacher at the school.

It is his first full-time teaching job. He got the position after graduating from University of the Pacific in 2004.

He never told himself, "No, I won't come back to Cleveland School because of any incident in the past."

Instead, Chun told himself, "Well, that is my place. I used to be there; my teachers are there. I respected them. ... There's lots of bad memories, but there are also lots of good memories."

Principal Pat Busher, who retired in 2006 after 22 years at Cleveland, makes it clear she was thrilled when the boy who had lived through the tragedy wanted to return to the school as a man.

"I knew his family well because he lost his sister," Busher said in an interview with former Record reporter Dianne Barth. "I visited the family frequently out of concern. ... Rann was just a wonderful, wonderful little boy, so very bright. And he grew to be this handsome young man who came back and said, 'Mrs. Busher, I want to teach at your school.'

"It was one of our proudest moments."
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New meaning for MLK Day: Immigrant inspired by U.S. example

This new citizen has a unique understanding of the inauguration and Martin Luther King day. DP


Seifu Ragassa, 31, of Gilford, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which will be celebrated a day before President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, has added meaning this year for people of many nationalities and cultures.

Ragassa has lived in the United States for almost 10 years, after being forced to flee Ethiopia due to political persecution.

A former journalist, Seifu said he and other journalists were threatened by the Ethiopian government when they reported on corruption there.

Ragassa was settled in the Lakes Region in 1999, where he became a corrections officer and worked toward earning his citizenship. He is a sergeant with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections-Laconia Facility.

He became a U.S. citizen in 2006, so November was the first presidential election he was able to vote in since leaving his own country.

In Ethopia, Ragassa said elections were often corrupt and citizens were persecuted for voting for a certain party over another.

Ragassa said when the first African-American president takes office, it will be a historic moment for people all over the world.

He said knowing that Obama's father was an immigrant from Kenya gives immigrants hope that their children, if born in the United States, could one day be president.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Travel The World At Library

This Library has great programs to help all their clients learn about the world, languages and cultures. More than just provide books for them, too. DP

by: Jessica Noll, Kentucky Post

You’re invited to travel the World at the Kenton County Public Library and learn about different countries through bilingual programs and materials designed for both English speaking and non-English speaking people who love to learn.

The Kenton County Public Library offers special programs designed to teach about world cultures while having fun. Put on your traveling shoes and experience the Chinese Way of Tea New Year Celebration, Celebrate Philippines, Silent Music: A story of Baghdad, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Culture Fest, International Thanksgiving and much more throughout the year.

The Chinese Way of Tea New Year Celebration will kickoff the Library’s Bilingual Programs for 2009 on Sunday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. at the Covington location. Attendees will learn Chinese, enjoy tea, make good luck banners and receive Chinese New Year gifts. (See attached flyer for other bilingual program details).

The Library also offers to programs to boost reading skills: Reading Buddies – a club for both English and non-English speaking children – at the Erlanger Branch and Puppy Tales – an opportunity for children to read one-on-one to dogs – at all three branches.

To support bilingual and cultural programming, the Library has a large foreign language book collection for children and adults, other foreign language materials, travel planning materials, and world music.

“I was so glad to find books written in my own language,” says Pilar Hernández de Mason, who was born in the Dominican Republic and still has family there.

In addition to books and materials, the Library always has reference staff on duty to help find resources and provide computer assistance.

The Kenton County Public Library has been offering programs, services and materials like this for years as an effort to reach out to new immigrants, as well as natives, in the community. Although the Library does not always have bilingual staff on duty, the staff will make an effort to meet the needs of foreign language speakers.

All programs and services are free and you do not have to have a Kenton County Public Library card to attend a program. You do not have to live in Kenton County to receive a free Kenton County Public Library card. All you need is a valid ID with your current address or a recent piece of mail.

Children can also receive a free Library card with parent permission.

English Everywhere

U.S. born people are almost the only people in the world who never bother to learn another language. We automatically expect everyone else to learn English and most of them do. We are the ones who suffer for that. DP

Speaker's Corner: It's the universal, global, one-size-fits-all language. Eric Lucas says it's not enough.

By Eric Lucas

“Do you speak English?”

The impeccably dressed young man behind the hotel counter in Dresden looked at me as if I’d asked whether he ever takes a shower.

“Of course,” he replied, briskly. Oxford-style accent.

“Sorry, of course you do,” I apologized, moving on to my question about how to find a restaurant. That night at dinner, as I was having a conversation with our waitress, I mulled my language provincialism. I know a smattering of German—hello, please, thanks, good morning, etc.—but have not gone much beyond the basics in Deutsch. My lack of knowledge was no impediment whatsoever to the purple-tressed 22-year-old Goth who brought a Saxon-style meal and easily answered my questions about it. In English.

“Danke,” I said.

I might have said, “Masha danki,” or “Mil gracias,” or “Tack så mycket,” or “Dziekuje,” or “Hsieh-hsieh,” had I been in Bonaire, Mexico, Sweden, Poland or Beijing. Most everyone in those places could have looked me up and down, determined my provenance, and replied “You’re welcome.” In English.

English is everywhere these days. It has become the universal, global, one-size-fits-all language. Estimates place its worldwide use among 1.5 billion people—quite a preponderance, considering native speakers of English number around 450 million. Almost any human working in the travel industry, Earth’s biggest economic arena, speaks some English. Commercial pilots are expected to do so. Bankers, customs and immigration officials, police officers, corporate managers, food servers, retail clerks—are all largely English-speaking, around the world. The language that was once an imperial weapon has been utterly transformed into a peaceable necklace embracing all. No matter where we go, we Americans, people speak our language, willfully. The question is: What should those of us who grow up speaking English do as the rest of the world adopts our language?
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

A 'Lost Boy' finds Vermont

This "Lost Boy" from Somalia is one of about 150 Sudanese refugees who have settled in Vermont. There are many things they have to learn to deal with, the first is the weather. The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program has helped them learn and assimilate. DP

By KEVIN O’CONNOR, Staff Writer

Alex Pial doesn’t know much about Samuel de Champlain, who made history 400 years ago as the first explorer to sail the Vermont lake that now bears his name.

But Pial knows how it feels to discover a new world.

Growing up in the African country of Sudan, the 29-year-old was a child when civil war broke out a quarter-century ago. Separated from his family after militiamen stormed his village in 1987, he became one of at least 20,000 orphaned “Lost Boys” who walked hundreds of miles over dry, desolate plains in search of safety.

Surviving the threat of lions and land mines, Pial fended for himself for a dozen years in refugee camps in the neighboring nations of Ethiopia and Kenya. Then, on Valentine’s Day 2001, he was relocated to Vermont.

Explorers, early settlers and subsequent waves of immigrants have viewed America as a proverbial rainbow leading to a pot of gold. But upon his arrival, Pial saw only white. It wasn’t just all the people as light as he is dark, but something more foreign to him: winter.

“It snow all day,” recalls the young man who grew up speaking Arabic (Sudan’s primary language) and Dinka (his tribal tongue). “You can see out the window — the road’s all covered. I keep on asking my host family, ‘How do you get out?’”

They pointed to a plow truck, something as strange to him as the houseful of electrical appliances he never encountered in an African mud hut. Cold and confused, Pial and his fellow refugees considered leaving.

“We say, ‘Let’s see for a couple of days — it may change.’”

That year it snowed in February. And March. And April.

“Then in May, you could see the flowers.”
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Welcome to US ... and Key Tech

These employees are learning and practicing greetings, telephone protocols, calling in sick, reporting problems, worksite rules, worker safety issues and much more to help them assimilate into the workforce. They will also learn what it means to have a career versus just a job. DP

Key Tech is funding a class to help its employees assimilate to the country and the company.

By VICKI HILLHOUSE of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

WALLA WALLA — Somewhere between the limp fish and the bone crusher, Antonio Flores engaged his palm in a socially correct handshake Thursday afternoon.

In a quiet classroom secluded from the warehouse and workspace where the Key Technology employee logs most of his hours, Flores practiced with a co-worker the elements of a mainstream American greeting: palms touching, fingers clutching, dry, confident, firm.

The study session in salutations was part of a new program for Key Technology employees who speak English as a second language. Believed to be the first corporate class of its kind in this area, the program is designed to help cross-cultural employees get a better sense not only of American customs, but specifically the values, practices and organization of the company.

During the same class, 25-year-old Fernando Campos took turns practicing formal and informal greetings with colleague Eva Rodriguez.

“Remember to use the person’s name when you greet them,” instructed Victor Chacon, diversity director for Walla Walla Community College and the course instructor.

Just a week into the program, Chacon is still getting a handle on the linguistic skills of each employee/student. So he started Thursday’s class by speaking in English at three speeds and seeing how many people could understand him. Though only three comprehended his fastest pace, Chacon warned that he’d be teaching in English.
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Immigrants See Charter Schools as a Haven

Immigrant children often have trouble fitting into our schools. This charter school is perfect for them, it understands their cultures and teaches them in the best ways for them to learn. DP


MINNEAPOLIS — Fartun Warsame, a Somali immigrant, thought she was being a good mother when she transferred her five boys to a top elementary school in an affluent Minneapolis suburb. Besides its academic advantages, the school was close to her job as an ultrasound technician, so if the teachers called, she could get there right away.

“Immediately they changed,” Ms. Warsame said of her sons. “They wanted to wear shorts. They’d say, ‘Buy me this.’ I said, ‘Where did you guys get this idea you can control me?’ ”

Her sons informed her that this was the way things were in America. But not in this Somali mother’s house. She soon moved them back to the city, to the International Elementary School, a charter school of about 560 pupils in downtown Minneapolis founded by leaders of the city’s large East African community. The extra commuting time was worth the return to the old order: five well-behaved sons, and one all-powerful mother.

Charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run, were conceived as a way to improve academic performance. But for immigrant families, they have also become havens where their children are shielded from the American youth culture that pervades large district schools.

The curriculum at the Twin Cities International Elementary School, and at its partner middle school and high school, is similar to that of other public schools with high academic goals. But at Twin Cities International the girls say they can freely wear head scarves without being teased, the lunchroom serves food that meets the dietary requirements of Muslims, and in every classroom there are East African teaching assistants who understand the needs of students who may have spent years in refugee camps. Twin Cities International students are from Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, with a small population from the Middle East.
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A common understanding

Refugees from many different countries are learning English and much more in the classes at this church. DP

Warwick United Church of Christ helps immigrants learn English and the customs of the U.S.

By Stephen H. Cowles

Even before she fled her native Iraq, Nadia Ardash knew some English.

Thanks to Warwick United Church of Christ, she's learning even more every week.

After spending two years in Syria, Ardash and her husband, son and daughter were able to come to the U.S. in August. Through the Refugee and Immigration Services Office in Hampton, she was introduced to the language classes.

"I like to read," Ardash said. She's eager to learn more about U.S. history.

Still, the new vocabulary is particularly challenging. So as Ardash talks about her past ordeals, you can tell from her expressions that she's always searching for the right word or phrase to express herself correctly.

"Everything happened to me. To everybody. War. No freedom. No peace. Many people killed," she said. "We are Christian for many years. Cars blow up our church."

Through the United Nations and the International Organization of Migration, Ardash and her family made it to Syria. "Many people there," she said. After two years, the family got to come to America.

Part of the church's mission statement is "to be relevant to our membership, our community and to the greater humankind." One way that this is achieved is through its English as a Second Language lab, one of the congregation's six outreach ministries.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Other Voices: Before Hispanic, Latino immigrants there were the Germans

This second generation American is writing a local history of the German community and compares them to the current Spanish speaking immigrants. DP

George F. Wieland, a child of German immigrants, is writing a history of the local German community

By George F. Wieland

What mass of immigrants arriving in today's America is racially different, sometimes doesn't learn English, and settles in groups that don't always assimilate? The Mexicans, of course.

But if that question had been asked earlier in our history, most Americans would have answered "Germans." Comparing the two groups of immigrants shows that today's Mexican immigration will eventually lead to Americanization, as did the earlier German immigration.

Germans were almost 10 percent of America's population in 1790. They were also the largest immigrant group from 1820 to 1950, comprising 6.25 million immigrants. Today, German-Americans are 60 million, or one out of every five Americans.

German-Americans, with the exception of a few Amish, are quite invisible. Few, if any, march on German-American Day. German-Americans have assimilated.

The German-American story in Ann Arbor is similar. They were once a distinctive one-third of the Ann Arbor population and an even larger proportion of settlers in townships west of town. The Germans of today have merged into American society. Will the Mexicans?

Of the 37.5 million foreign-born in America in 2006, 47.2 percent reported Hispanic or Latino origins. This 17.7 million is only 6 percent of all Americans, not nearly as large a proportion as the Germans once were.

In addition, Hispanics are not a unitary group, since they come from different countries and speak different versions of Spanish. Mexicans are the largest contingent of foreign-born in America, at 30.7 percent, or 11.5 million. But this is only 3.8 percent of today's U.S. population.

Most Mexican immigrants are racially distinctive because of their Native American blood. Could this prevent assimilation? When the Germans comprised one third of the Pennsylvania Colony's population, they were distinctive, too. Benjamin Franklin complained that they were "swarthy."
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Assembly of assimilation

This Missouri high school has a multicultural student body and celebrates every one of them. DP

Gathering honors various paths many have taken to live in, shape Springfield.

By Gregory Trotter • News-Leader

From Moldova to Mexico, Central High's vibrant international community showed its true colors in a gesture of unity Wednesday.

Central's international students proudly posed with the 31 flags from their home countries spread across different tables. The flags were to be hung on the walls later in the day, to remind Central of its multicultural student body.

Ron Snodgrass, first-year principal at Central, wanted a very clear message to visitors when they walked in the door.

"When they walk in, how would they really know?" Snodgrass said. "This creates the visual representation of the diversity at Central."

But for the 70 or so students from other countries, it was also a profound recognition of their cultural identity.

"We have much pride knowing that the Puerto Rican flag will be hanging up," said Fabian Rivera, 16, who represented Puerto Rico with the help of his brother Natanael, 18.

The Rivera brothers moved to Springfield about eight years ago and have learned English and acclimated into American culture. But they also remember how difficult it was in the beginning.

"The language, the food, the culture -- it was very hard at first," said Natanael Rivera.

Maria Amato, a Spanish teacher for Central's International Baccalaureate program, can relate. She moved to Springfield from Argentina about seven years ago to play tennis for MSU.

"Everything is more family-oriented back home," Amato said. "It's more individual here."

She was drawn to teach at Central because of the international presence celebrated Wednesday.
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As ESL students lag behind, Rhode Island cities look to fine-tune instruction

Even though more immigrant students are learning English, it does not always mean they are learning enough to perform as well in school as their classmates. These schools are trying to close the gap. DP

By Linda Borg, Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — In spite of all the rhetoric about the surge of illegal immigrants, the number of students who speak little or no English has decreased in Rhode Island over the past five years.

State and local education officials couldn’t explain why those numbers are declining, but some educators wondered whether Governor Carcieri’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, combined with the state’s abysmal job market, has contributed to the reduction.

Central Falls had about 1,000 students enrolled in English as a Second Language classes seven years ago; now, it has 600 students who fit that category. In Providence, the number has declined slightly over the past five years, from 16 percent to 14 percent of the total student population.

Nationally, however, this population has more than doubled over the past 10 years, especially in the Southeast, where 13 states saw a growth of more than 200 percent.

But Peter McWalters, Rhode Island’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said those numbers should not obscure very real performance gaps between English language learners and their fluent peers.

According to a national study by Education Week, an education policy magazine, only 13.8 percent of English language learners in Rhode Island scored proficient on a state math test compared with more than 50 percent of all students statewide. In reading, 11.3 percent of English language learners are proficient versus slightly more than 60 percent of all students statewide.

Nationally, only 9.6 percent of ESL fourth- and eighth-graders scored proficient or higher in math on a nationwide test and 5.6 percent scored proficient in English. Across the United States, 25 percent of all English language learners are failing to make progress toward English-language proficiency.
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Immigrants learning English show determination

This ESL teacher proves that immigrants DO want to learn English, even though it is difficult and they hardly have any time to go to classes. DP

By ELSJE M. SMIT, Special to The Star

I was pleased to read that free English as a Second Language classes will be offered by the Kansas City Kansas Community College. As an ESL teacher, I know the need is great.

My pleasure faded, however, when I read the back page of the same Sunday Local section. There a letter-writer was “appalled” by the fact that Hilda Solis, when she thanked President-elect Barack Obama for nominating her to the post of labor secretary, delivered part of her speech in Spanish.

The writer complained about “those who live here (and) choose not to want to speak English.”

The assumption is that if people don’t speak English, it is because they don’t want to. I’ve heard that expressed many times, especially when I introduce myself as an ESL instructor.

The comments I get are usually something like “Good luck! These immigrants simply refuse to learn English!”

In all of my 29 years of teaching, I’ve encountered very few non-native speakers who fit that stereotype.

My students — especially the older ones — have struggled mightily to master a language that is very complicated. Often their task is more difficult because they have little or no formal education; some can barely read or write.

And while taking several hours of classes a week — not enough for them to become fluent quickly — they are usually holding down at least one job, taking care of children or parents or both, and trying to understand and adapt to a new culture and way of life.

Yet most come to class with a hunger to learn that would make many parents of high-school students jealous.
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More volunteer tutors needed to change lives: locally, literally

This literacy program usually works with English speakers who can't read, but now are also working with immigrants who want to learn English. They work one on one, and always need more volunteers. DP

Read for Literacy witnesses recent surge in enrollment


When you can't read, it helps to have a good memory.

That was how Henry Hartford of East Toledo said he managed being illiterate for most of his 51 years.

Unable to decipher addresses or street signs, Mr. Hartford had to memorize landmarks or buildings when navigating around. He also learned to recognize the shapes of common words and phrases like "door" or "miles per hour" without ever comprehending the jumbled letters.

But eventually for Mr. Hartford, now a student in the Read for Literacy program in Toledo, memorizing shapes and carrying "cheat sheets" of words to work was no way to live life.

He enrolled in the adult literacy program nearly two years ago, and with one-on-one, twice-weekly tutoring from Bob Niedzielski, 72, a retired University of Toledo chemistry professor, Mr. Hartford is making steady progress toward his goal: obtaining a General Educational Development (GED) diploma, a high school equivalency degree which typically requires a 10th-grade reading ability.

With a waiting list that recently jumped to 46 people, the Read for Literacy program has an immediate need for 50 volunteers to tutor adult students.

There's a particular need for volunteers who know some Spanish, as a growing number of the program's English as a Second Language students speak hardly any English, Executive Director Jim Funk said.

Because many of these ESL students are parents, teaching them how to speak and read English gives their children a head start. "If we have people in our community who can't read, it is in the community's interest to help them become better providers and better parents," Mr. Funk said.

Begun in 1986, the program enrolls about 1,300 participants, nearly all from Lucas County. The twice-a-week 90-minute tutoring sessions are free, but students are asked to buy their own course materials. "The logic is that if people make a [financial] commitment to it, that will help them be and remain committed," said Mr. Funk, adding that hardship assistance is available.
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Unlocking the American Dream

The office of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) is giving refugees a crash course in English. They want at least some proficiency in 180 days. DP

By Catherine Cheney

Clenching Styrofoam cups of steaming beverages, three men from Iraq, Somalia, and Guinea returned from their coffee break and prepared for further instruction from their English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.

The teacher asked what new words they had learned over the break.

“Chocolate milk,” responded the Iraqi, just before the Somali answered, “Black coffee!” Eager to impress, the third student added, “Chocolate tea!” The teacher tilted her head in confusion, and then responded, “Oh, hot chocolate!”

The room promptly repeated in unison.

“Hot choc-o-late.”

This was not in an average classroom, but rather, in the office of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, Connecticut. Resettlement agencies like IRIS assist refugees with the material needs and logistical challenges that they face immediately after arriving in the United States, needs ranging from apartment rent to medical exams. Over 20 percent of IRIS’ $700,000 annual budget is also reserved for a more long-term need: education. This class, where refugees learn how to translate their new surroundings, is an important part of their welcome to the United States.

“This is the land of opportunity, right?” said Chris George, executive director of IRIS. “We all know that everyone does not have the same access to opportunities in this country, but we also know that English education is key to at least having a chance at those opportunities.”

This commitment to English education for refugees is enshrined in the official resettlement policies of the U.S. government. Around 10 percent of IRIS’ budget comes from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Match Grant Program, through the department of Health and Human Services. The funds come with a host of regulations. Refugees are expected to achieve economic independence within 180 days of their arrival. As part of reaching this goal, resettlement agencies are mandated to refer refugees to English courses.
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ESL tutors help foreign students attain fluency in everyday English

These immigrants all learned to speak English before they came here, but conversational English is still difficult. This class is helping them to be more comfortable at work and in social settings. DP

By Jonathan Devin, Special to The Commercial Appeal

Memphis Literacy Council volunteers Dr. Jose Moréy and Ke Qi began a recent lesson by asking one student to introduce herself to the class.

"I am from Japan," said Makiko Watanabe cautiously, pausing to formulate sentences in her mind before speaking them. "I am a researcher. I am working at St. Jude."

Watanabe is one of a six-member research team at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, four of whom moved to the United States from Japan, another from Brazil, and one from Cote d'Ivoire.

Despite having advanced educations that include years of formal English study, the group's members and others like them struggle with everyday English conversation.

The often-voiced sentiment that immigrants should be required to learn English remains unmatched by federal funding for English classes, leaving churches and nonprofit groups to shoulder what efforts they can. In some cases, the best teachers of English are people who learned it as a second language themselves.

"(The students) work in my department," said Qi, 24, also a St. Jude researcher. "Medical research attracts a lot of international people, and I noticed that they write English better than anyone. They're amazing at comprehending scientific journals, but they can't speak very well."

Qi mentioned her volunteer work with the literacy group to Greicy (pronounced Gracie) Goto, who is Japanese, but was born in Brazil and speaks Portuguese as her native language. Goto was immediately interested in coming to the Memphis Literacy Council with her group.

Qi then approached MLC tutor/student coordinator Vernetta Anderson, who made arrangements for the new class and asked Moréy to teach it.
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Program covers English, welding lessons while immigrants get on-the-job training

This foundation helps workers get training for a good job and also English lessons at the same time. DP

By Cindy Gonzalez, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

For years, Fred Amis funneled cash from his family foundation into established charities with history and tradition.

Then the Omaha philanthropist had a change of heart.

He wanted to see more direct results. Be hands on. Focus on urgent community concerns -- such as the integration of immigrants into their new homeland.

It's an approach longtime friend and foundation board member John Sunderman fondly calls "full-contact philanthropy."

Today that shift in strategy and foundation dollars is playing out at a steel company near downtown Omaha.

And it is transforming the lives of immigrants like Ernesto Ali of Cuba and Octavio Zinzun of Mexico.

"They give you something to start a new life," said Zinzun, 22. "Man, it is awesome."

Now a year old, the project was designed to speed integration through English classes, on-the-job training and a permanent paycheck. The idea was hatched when foundation managers were re-evaluating their efforts while debate over illegal immigration was raging nationally and locally.

Amis tapped another foundation, the Omaha Community Foundation, to conduct a needs assessment of immigrants. Language was identified as a top barrier to integration; employment surfaced as immigrants' No. 1 need.

The pivotal "aha" moment came, Sunderman said, when he remarked how difficult it was to find and retain qualified welders at his place of employment, Paxton & Vierling Steel Co.
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Beacon Hill woman devoted to helping immigrant neighbors master English

It's too bad every neighborhood doesn't have someone like this woman. She has free informal English classes for her immigrant neighbors, and they all learn about each others' countries and cultures. DP

So many immigrants have moved into Dolores Veliz's Beacon Hill neighborhood that she began offering free English classes so she'd be able to communicate with her neighbors.

By Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times staff reporter

About three years ago, it occurred to Dolores Veliz that so many immigrants had moved into her Beacon Hill neighborhood that she literally couldn't talk to her neighbors anymore.

"Many of them don't speak any English. And I don't speak Chinese," she said.

So with her friendly, chatty manner and nurturing style, she set about to try to bridge the language gap by offering free English lessons out of her home.

"I want to make a connection, to make friends," she says, sitting at her kitchen table, flanked by students.

"I want to get to know their culture, how they worship. I want them to be able to say more to me than ni hao" — Mandarin for hello, pronounced nee-haw.

In three years, Veliz, a retiree, figures she's given lessons to about 500 students, most of them Vietnamese and Chinese, and a few Latinos. They've ranged in age from 5 to 75.

And while many are housewives or low-skilled workers, Veliz brags she's had doctors and medical students around her kitchen table, too.

The evidence is in the dozens of yellow sticky notes bearing the names of students that adorn the walls of her cramped kitchen: Thông Lê from Saigon, Xiao Hua from China, José Corado from El Salvador.

"I have people in this country just a few days or a few weeks who want to come to me," says Veliz.

Veliz does not hold a certificate for teaching English as a second language (ESL). She doesn't have to because her work is voluntary and she charges nothing for her services.

She herself is not proficient in the languages of her students, and she doesn't teach beginner's English — she requires students to have some basic knowledge of the language.

That way she can engage them in conversations about American culture and about their own culture. "I help them with conversation, vocabulary, grammar," she says.
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Out of Africa and into a new world

A fascinating story about the kids in this Missouri elementary school. Some of them are African refugees and are struggling to fit into their new community. It is hard to teach children a new language when they can't read or write in their own language, but these teachers are managing, especially with art and music classes. DP

African refugee students at Grant Elementary bring new meaning to the phrase 'culture shock'

BY Morven McColluch, Jennifer Gordon, Katlin Chadwick

COLUMBIA — On a Monday morning in December, it takes a few minutes for the fifth-graders at Grant Elementary School to settle into art class. Today, they are finishing up their holiday cards for cancer patients.

Desire is focused, head low, working in great penciled detail on a drawing of houses and a road; he has already finished his holiday card with a watercolor snowman on the front. He briefly answers his neighbor's questions before returning to his picture. Drawing with pencil is his favorite.

Art is expressive, but for Desire — pronounced "De-SEER" — it is also the easiest form of communication. Iratubona Desire, called Desire by his classmates, is one of nine African refugees who attend Grant: Six come from Tanzania, two from Somalia and one from Rwanda. There are three others whose families fled Somalia but spent time in Yemen, in the Middle East, before coming to the U.S.

The 12 students at Grant reflect a growth in the number of African refugees in Columbia. In the past five years, Dan Murphy, the education and civics coordinator for Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbia, has enrolled about 50 African refugees in the Columbia Public School District. Students at Grant, like Desire, are using the language resources available, but are still struggling with full assimilation into American life. Additional methods, like art, can aid the process.
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