Proposals to help immigrants integrate into US culture take up only 30 pages in an 800-page immigration reform bill, but they are winning broad support – even among some critics of the overall legislation.
In an immigration reform debate loaded with bitter disputes, there’s vast bipartisan support for a small, as-yet-overlooked part of the Senate’s bipartisan legislation: doing more to integrate new immigrants into American civic and cultural life.
Beneficiaries of such assimilation efforts would be brand new immigrants, as well as those who have lived illegally in America for years but who, under immigration reform, are seeking legal status and, some, eventual citizenship.
“I appreciate the attention given in the bill to expanding resources for improving assimilation and the integration of immigrants in our society, especially in terms of promoting English-language and civics education,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, a skeptic of the overall immigration package, at a hearing on the immigration reform bill last week.
Where will the millions of hours of English-language instruction that the undocumented will need, if they are to obtain green cards, come from? ask advocates for immigrants. And with the prospect of perhaps 10 million illegal immigrants moving along the road to citizenship over the next decade, where will communities look for resources and best practices to begin to bring them out of the shadows and into community life? they wonder.
Today, America’s immigrant integration system is best known for letting local groups help new immigrants in ways unique to their communities. What current integration efforts don’t do, however, is deliver any comprehensive strategy for ensuring that new Americans get a firm rooting in their wider, new communities.
Some conservative immigration analysts point to the specter of the Boston Marathon bombings, allegedly conducted by two young men admitted to the US as child refugees, as evidence that the nation’s system of “patriotic assimilation” is due for an overhaul.
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