English not lan­guage used in fifth of U.S. house­holds

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN AND S.A. MILLER

One-fifth of peo­ple in the U.S. speak a for­eign lan­guage at home, ac­cord­ing to a re­port be­ing re­leased Mon­day by the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which found Ara­bic and Urdu — the na­tional lan­guage of Pak­istan — among the fastest-grow­ing.

The re­port found that nearly half of all Cal­i­for­nia school-age chil­dren speak a lan­guage other than English at home, as do a third of Tex­ans and Ne­vadans, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, which is based on Cen­sus Bureau num­bers.

Three decades ago, 10 per­cent of res­i­dents spoke a for­eign lan­guage at home, but a surge of im­mi­gra­tion and chang­ing cul­tural pat­terns have sent the per­cent­age sky­rock­et­ing. More than 40 per­cent of those who spoke a for­eign lan­guage at home said they speak English less than pro­fi­ciently.

Steven Ca­marota, co-au­thor of the re­port, said the in­crease in for­eign lan­guage speak­ers isn’t an ac­ci­dent, but rather the re­sult of pol­icy de­ci­sions that could be re­versed by Congress.

“Al­low­ing in over one mil­lion new le­gal im­mi­grants a year and to a lesser ex­tent tol­er­at­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion has im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions for pre­serv­ing a common lan­guage,” Mr. Ca­marota said. “For too long, we have given lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion to whether con­tin­u­ing this level of im­mi­gra­tion, mostly le­gal, hin­ders the as­sim­i­la­tion of im­mi­grants and their chil­dren.”

Span­ish speak­ers dom­i­nate, with 38.4 mil­lion U.S. res­i­dents — roughly 12 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion — speak­ing Span­ish at home.

That is not likely to change. The num­ber of for­eign lan­guage speak­ers surged this sum­mer with the il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion of chil­dren from Cen­tral Amer­ica.

Some of the chil­dren speak Mayan or other rel­a­tively rare in­dige­nous lan­guages, putting a strain on courts and schools.

In Au­gust alone, as the school year was open­ing, sev­eral dis­tricts re­ported ma­jor jumps in their ex­pected stu­dent pop­u­la­tions.

DeKalb County in Ge­or­gia re­ported 386 chil­dren placed with rel­a­tives or foster fam­i­lies in Au­gust, mark­ing a 467 per­cent jump over its pre­vi­ous to­tal for the year. Cook County in Illi­nois re­ported 215 more chil­dren, for a 313 per­cent jump in Au­gust.

With almost all the chil­dren of school age, and their par­ents or guardians re­quired to en­roll them, it means a ma­jor surge — some­times sev­eral class­rooms’ worth — of chil­dren. Many of the im­mi­grant chil­dren have spe­cial needs, in­clud­ing a com­plete lack of English lan­guage skills, and some have never been in school.

Chicago Pub­lic Schools, the largest dis­trict in Cook County, said it has been re­ceiv­ing un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors for years and has plans in place to ac­com­mo­date them. A spokes­woman said school of­fi­cials have not seen an un­usual num­ber this year.

A spokesman for DeKalb County, with one of the largest in­creases, said he would re­ply to ques­tions but never an­swered mul­ti­ple follow-up mes­sages. Lo­cal im­pact In Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, 231 chil­dren have been placed with fam­i­lies since Jan­uary — mark­ing an in­crease in the schoolage pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 per­cent, or about 10 new class­rooms’ worth of chil­dren this year. In Au­gust alone, the city re­ceived 26 more chil­dren, about a class­room’s worth — just as schools were about to start.

But city of­fi­cials said they don’t feel a strain.

“We have in­struc­tional pro­grams al­ready in place. Our In­ter­na­tional Academy is de­signed to ed­u­cate im­mi­grant chil­dren,” said spokes­woman He­len Lloyd. “We are not al­lowed to ask im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. No school dis­trict is per­mit­ted to in­quire as to whether a stu­dent is doc­u­mented or un­doc­u­mented. We are man­dated to ed­u­cate all.”

She said any in­crease in stu­dent pop­u­la­tion costs money but the dis­trict re­ceives some fed­eral as­sis­tance to fund ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren with limited English skills.

Of­fi­cials in Prince George’s County, Maryland, said they are still wait­ing to see the fi­nan­cial im­pact.

“The rev­enue for the bud­get was based on last year’s stu­dent en­roll­ment count, and there­fore the num­ber of new im­mi­grant stu­dents we are con­sis­tently en­rolling wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily cap­tured,” said Colby R. White, the county schools’ chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer. “It’s still too early in the school year to de­ter­mine the im­pact they may have on the bud­get.

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