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August 08, 2007

At Odds Over Immigrant Assimilation

By Karin Brulliard, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, August 7, 2007; A01

Hernan Ruiz, a concrete finisher with a gray streak in his dark hair, shot up his hand during a recent citizenship test prep class at a sunny Silver Spring community center. Called on to answer a question about who elects the U.S. president, the El Salvador native carefully pronounced "electoral college," a response he might need to know for his official transformation into an American.

After 22 years in the United States, Ruiz said, he feels like one.

But he knows that not everyone sees people such as him -- an immigrant who prefers to speak his mother tongue -- that way. To this, he responds that the U.S. government should demand that newcomers know English -- and help them learn it.

"This country was founded by immigrants. There should be a lot of cultures," Ruiz, 48, said. "But at the base is the government."

Ruiz's idea lies at the heart of a question that has recently entered the national immigration debate, one some researchers say is important as new trends challenge old integration patterns: Should the government encourage assimilation?

The Bush administration is taking steps to do that. The Task Force on New Americans, created by executive order last year, recently presented initiatives that supporters say will help immigrants "become fully American."

Among the government initiatives is a Web site to direct immigrants to information on benefits, English classes and volunteer work. Another site offers resources for English and citizenship-test teachers. More than 12,000 copies of a tool kit containing civics flashcards and a welcome guide in English and Spanish have been distributed to libraries. This fall, the government has scheduled eight regional training conferences for civics and citizenship instructors. The task force is to deliver more recommendations to President Bush after convening discussions on assimilation with immigrant advocates, teachers and local officials around the nation...".

at; washingtonpost.com

Posted by VisaLawyer at August 8, 2007 05:59 AM


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