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Caroline Fan on October 31, 2008 - 6:45pm
Despite claims by anti-immigrant groups that new immigrants do not want to learn English, all evidence shows that there are millions of immigrants literally begging to learn English, only to find insufficient classrooms teaching in their communities. In Los Angeles, for example, 50,000 students remain on waiting lists for English language classes, even though schools teaching ESL run 24 hours a day.
Many business leaders recognize that problem and want better language training programs, diverging sharply from anti-immigrant groups wanting to deny such help. A number of states have proposed directed funding to help new immigrants learn English and integrate more easily into their communities:
- Illinois's SB 1446, also known as the "We Want to Learn English Initiative," was enacted in 2007. It requires the Illinois Community College Board to administer a program for lawful immigrants and refugees to learn English and move towards becoming full members of American society. The initiative provides for an annual budget of $25 million, with no less than half of the funds appropriated for the Initiative being disbursed through community-based, not-for-profit organizations, immigrant social service organizations, faith-based organizations, and on-site job training programs.
- Minnesota's HF 979 / SF 923 in 2007 increased funding for affordable and accessible adult English language instruction.
- New York's proposed A2289 would establish a program to provide resources to community-based organizations to facilitate adult English and civics instruction, along with assistance with the citizenship process.
- Migration Policy Institute, Adult English Language Instruction in the United States: Determining Need and Investing Wisely, July 2007
- American Immigration Law Foundation, ESL Education Helps Immigrants Integrate, Interest remains high despite a national shortage of ESL programs, 2002
- Pew Hispanic Center, English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States