Friday, August 08, 2008

Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration

It's so refreshing to see legislation that validates and recognizes the contributions of immigrants. These are the kinds of polices and investments that benefit all communities.


Honoring the Contributions of Immigrant Communities

Throughout America's history, immigrants have built our infrastructure, fueled our economy through entrepreneurship, and made social and cultural contributions that enable us to better understand the rest of the world.

I introduced a bill to honor those contributions, by providing immigrant families access to critical assistance such as English language and civics education. The Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act will help immigrant communities become a more integral part of the American fabric and maximize their social and economic contributions.

The Need for English Language Acquisition Resources

According to the Census Bureau, over 19% of the population (54.8 million) speaks a language other than English at home. Between 11 and 21 million individuals are estimated to have limited English proficiency. While the English language learner population is often characterized as solely immigrant, the reality is that the native-born English language learner population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2005 and is increasing at a higher rate than the immigrant population. Between 2010 and 2030, these first and second generation immigrants are projected to account for all growth in the U.S. labor force. Better preparing this workforce will unite and strengthen our country.

What the Legislation Does

With the growth of the English language learner population comes the urgent need to devote resources to education and ensuring that we fully embrace them into their communities. The Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act would:
Invest in adult education programs for English language learners

* Increases our investment in adult education by codifying English literacy and civics adult education programs and creating a new appropriation for these programs.

Ensure that our nation’s children and schools have adequate funding and resources for vital literacy programs for English language learners

* Increases the authorization for Even Start Family Literacy programs to $350 million.

* Provides resources for expanded learning time programs for English language learners in middle and high school.

Assist schools with teacher recruitment for English language learners

* Creates a $1,500 tax credit for teachers of English language learners and a deduction for their certification.

Provide incentives for employers to offer adult education and ESL programs to their employees

* Creates a 20% tax credit to employers that expend their resources to provide English language instruction and GED training.

Provide technical assistance and support to state and local efforts supporting newcomers

* Re-establishes the Office of Citizenship in USCIS as the Office of Citizenship and Immigrant Integration, which would coordinate federal policies on integration and serve as a liaison to state and local entities

* Makes grant money available to states to establish New American Councils that bring together business, faith, civic, philanthropic, non-profit and education stakeholders to create and implement immigrant integration programs.

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