Aliens’ English classes to cost bil­lions; cost es­ti­mated for 6.4 mil­lion il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Pro­vid­ing classes for le­gal im­mi­grants and il­le­gal aliens to learn enough English to as­sim­i­late into U.S. so­ci­ety would cost an ex­tra $18 bil­lion over six years, says a new study.

States and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment al­ready spend about $1 bil­lion an­nu­ally on English in­struc­tion for im­mi­grants, but the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute says an ad­di­tional $200 mil­lion a year is needed to pro­vide English classes for le­gal im­mi­grants and $2.9 bil­lion a year to cover il­le­gal aliens.

“En­sur­ing that im­mi­grants have the op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire strong English lan­guage and lit­er­acy skills is among the most ne­glected do­mes­tic pol­icy is­sues in our na­tion to­day,” the re­port’s au­thors wrote.

The Se­nate im­mi­gra­tion bill de­feated in June would have re­quired il­le­gal aliens to prove their English skills af­ter they earned le­gal sta­tus but be­fore they could gain a green card, which is the in­terim step to cit­i­zen­ship.

MPI, a think tank that stud­ies mi­gra­tion pat­terns and im­mi­gra­tion’s ef­fects, es­ti­mated that would have ap­plied to 6.4 mil­lion il­le­gal aliens, and would have re­quired 1.9 bil­lion man-hours of English in­struc­tion over six years. For le­gal im­mi­grants, 5.8 mil­lion need English in­struc­tion, to­tal­ing 1.7 bil­lion man-hours of class­room time.

As­sim­i­la­tion is play­ing a big­ger role in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate, and English has be­come a pri­mary test of as­sim­i­la­tion. The re­port’s au­thors said it’s clear any bill that does pass in the fu­ture will call for il­le­gal aliens to demon­strate English skills.

And Pres­i­dent Bush called for both le­gal im­mi­grants and il­le­gal aliens to learn the lan­guage to prove they want to be part of so­ci­ety.

But Amer­i­cans don’t be­lieve im- mi­grants are se­ri­ous about try­ing to learn English. A CBS-New York Times poll re­leased dur­ing the de­bate found that 62 per­cent of those sur­veyed said re­cent im­mi­grants don’t try to learn English “within a rea­son­able amount of time.”

His­panic and im­mi­grant rights groups, though, say the prob­lem is not that im­mi­grants don’t want to learn, but that the wait­ing lines for classes are al­ready long.

Michael Fix, one of the au­thors of the MPI re­port, said they ap­proached the is­sue not from a sense of benev­o­lence, but from the per­spec­tive of “na­tional eco­nomic self­in­ter­est.” He said the fig­ures show those who have bet­ter English skills can get bet­ter jobs, and those with bet­ter jobs con­trib­ute more in taxes and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

MPI said nearly half of all im­mi­grant work­ers — le­gal and il­le­gal — have lim­ited English skills. And other stud­ies have shown a large por­tion of le­gal im­mi­grants who are el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship but have not done so can­not meet the nat­u­ral­iza­tion exam’s English re­quire­ment.

The au­thors sug­gested fund­ing new English classes from fees and fines paid by im­mi­grants and il­le­gal aliens, from money il­le­gal aliens have con­trib­uted from their time work­ing il­le­gally into So­cial Se­cu­rity or from a new re­quire­ment that busi­nesses who spon­sor im­mi­grants ab­sorb the cost.

They es­ti­mated it takes 660 hours of in­struc­tion to help an im­mi­grant with no English skills reach pro­fi­ciency.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Sep­a­rate worlds: Strip malls, such as this one along Route 31, cater to the large His­panic por­tion of the com­mu­nity in Car­pen­tersville, Ill. The vil­lage re­cently passed a non-bind­ing res­o­lu­tion declar­ing English the town’s of­fi­cial lan­guage and is con­sid­er­ing a law mak­ing it il­le­gal to rent to or hire il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

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