By Eunice Moscoso
Friday, December 19, 2008
WASHINGTON — The United States must embark on an aggressive effort to integrate immigrants, including teaching them English and U.S. history, a federal task force recommended Thursday.
If this "Americanization" fails, the n ation could see major problems in 20 or 30 years, with foreign-born populations detached from the larger society and engaging in anti-social behavior, said Alfonso Aguilar, who heads the U.S. Office of Citizenship.
Aguilar compared the potential strife to what is occurring in some Western European countries where foreign-born populations do not feel part of the larger society and are not accepted by many as full citizens.
"We should not be naive and assume that the assimilation process is going to happen automatically," Aguilar said, at a news conference.
By 2025, about 14 percent of the nation will be foreign-born, he said.
The Task Force on New Americans recommends that the federal government take a leadership role in an "Americanization movement," but also says that states, local governments, nonprofit groups and the private sector should play a key part.
The report strongly emphasizes that immigrants must learn English in order to fully integrate into American society. Aguilar said immigrants currently want to learn English but many cannot find classes.
He said the report is not recommending "an ugly, English-only approach," but "a friendly, pro-active literary effort."
The report urges the development of Internet based electronic learning tools for adults to learn English and civics.
The task force, which includes 12 Cabinet-level departments and eight additional federal agencies, has been studying the issue for two years. It is part of a Bush administration effort to promote citizenship.