We would be a very rich immigrant rights coalition if we had a nickle for everytime we heard someone say “immigrants don’t want to learn english”. What !?!?! Sure, some folks, particularly our elders, may not be as quick or eager to pick up the language (and I’d like to see an how many adult Americans move to India and learn Hindi… I’m just saying…)- but there is clearly no doubt that many immigrants from all over the world are eager to learn the language that can assist them in engaging other communities, improving their work conditions, and improving opportunities for their children.
What is stopping them? A huge barrier to learning English is the lack of affordable, and accesible classes. A huge dirth in spending on ESL in this country ahs made it increasingly difficult for immigrants to get the education they need.
Recently a bill has been introduced into Congress to fix that problem- check it out here:
HINOJOSA INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE ADULT ESL SERVICES
Washington, DC– Today, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced legislationenhance literacy education and English as a Second Language (ESL) services for the growing number of adults who pursue English language classes in America each year.
According to the U.S. Census, 23 million adults in the United States do not speak English well; more than 90 million adults have limited reading, writing, and mathematics skills. At the same time, demand for English language instruction has never been greater. A majority of adult ESL programs have waiting lists, some as long as three years, according to a recent report by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
“For centuries, the American Dream has called immigrants to our nation’s shores,” said Hinojosa. “However, at present, the dream is fading for far too many because they lack the language skills and the understanding of civics to fully participate in American society.”
To combat these statistics, Hinojosa has introduced the Adults Achieving the American Dream Act, which will increase the authorization for programs under the Adult and Family Literacy Act to $1.2 billion by fiscal year 2013. In addition, the bill will:
- Authorize the set-aside for integrated English literacy and civics programs in the Adult and Family Literacy Act.
- Dedicate a percentage of immigration fines to integrated English literacy and civics programs
- Offer tax incentives to employers who offer adult education and English as second language programs to their employees
- Increase the authorization for Even Start Family Literacy programs to $500 million
- Dedicate a research and development center to adult education and literacy at the Institute for Education Sciences
- Provide technical support and professional development for integrated English literacy and civics programs
“Providing more adults the opportunity to learn English is essential to strengthening the fabric of American life,” noted Hinojosa. “Not only are there more job opportunities and greater earning power for speakers of English; family ties are strengthened when parents are capable of helping their children with homework, and the country benefits by having more first-generation Americans involved in civic life.”