Immigrant Integration

MALDEF strongly supports proactive efforts by Congress and state legislatures to welcome new immigrants and weave them into the fabric of their new communities. As immigrants continue to be a growing portion of our nation’s schools and workforce, it is critical that investments are made to train and educate English language learners (ELL) and assist them transition into their new communities. To this end, MALDEF has led a coalition of over 200 local and national organizations in support of legislation that invests in English language acquisition opportunities for adults and children; creates incentives for businesses to educate their workers and be a part of the integration of immigrants; and provides resources to help communities bring together key stakeholders.

In July 2008, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), introduced the “Strengthening Communities through English and Integration Act of 2008” (H.R. 6617 and S. 3334). Among the 31 co-sponsors in the United States House of Representatives, are U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). In the Senate, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was a key co-sponsor. The Act will invest resources in the education of English language learners of all ages and empower communities to integrate newcomers. MALDEF, along with our partners at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), played a key role in drafting the legislation.

As our nation continues to grow and the demand for highly-skilled workers increases, we must accelerate the integration of English language learner children and adults into society and develop local solutions for welcoming newcomers into our communities. The number of ELLs in America’s public school system has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, and is expected to reach 25% of the public school population by 2025. As the U.S. workforce ages, the economy increasingly depends on recent arrivals. It is estimated that two-thirds of the growth in the U.S. civilian labor force over the last three years has been due to immigrants, and that number is only going to continue to increase in the coming decades. In order for these new citizens – and America – to thrive, full English literacy must be attained. The Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act will improve academic preparation and economic competitiveness by providing resources for literacy and civics education programs. Additionally, the legislation promotes positive dialogue in state and local communities among key stakeholders by establishing New American Councils and creating a grant program for integration efforts.

Specifically, this legislation will:

  • Increase investment in elementary, secondary, and adult education, with a special focus on English as a Second Language (ESL) and civics programs;
  • Encourage the research and development of “best practices” for educating English language learners;
  • Support the recruitment and retention of ESL teachers through tax credits;
  • Create tax incentives for employers to offer adult education and ESL programs for their employees; and
  • Promote civic participation and productive dialogues in communities by establishing local integration councils.

For the 111th Congress, MALDEF anticipates continued bi-partisan support and will work with key allies to fight for passage. Once introduced, we will need your voice to help this legislation move forward.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund