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Immigrant Integration and English proficiency

By Maria L. Santos - Posted on 20 January 2015

Assimilation is part of the Immigration process.  In my opinion, the key to assimilation is learning the language of the country—English in the USA!  Along the way and over time, assimilation includes everything from foods to sports, but the first step is the language.   This does not mean that you forget your native language.  In fact, today it is easy to keep the native language alive with satellites and the web that allow you to access programming in any language.  This is why the USA is way ahead of the game when it comes to assimilation.  Immigrants assimilate and still feel comfortable in their differences, including the ability to speak their native language.  This is not true in most of the rest of the world!

I lived through my parents’ struggle to work so many hours and still learn the English language.  It was not easy because they were in their mid-thirties when they came to the USA.  Both are proud to say that they speak English.  It was essential to learn to write too so that they could do their banking (write a check), read important notices, function at work, go to a doctor, and participate in the education of their children.   Today, you can see that the folks who are not able to re-join the work force are those who are 50+ and have not been able to learn English. They are unable to acquire new skills, including putting a resume together or filing out an on-line application.

Mastering the language of the nation is key to assimilation, especially in a world that is dominated by social media, on-line shopping, banking, job-searches and other activities.  Nearly 100% of the immigrants who come to the USA through employment-based petitions will not have to learn the English language.  They are already quite fluent.  Assimilation is so much easier for these immigrants and their families.   It is the opposite for the family-based immigrants who come to this country.  Many will need support in the communities where they live to become proficient in the English language and slowly assimilate into the USA society and culture.

A White House Task Force is developing a plan that needs to be submitted to the President to include recommendations for federal actions to promote the integration of New Americans.  They need to hear from us with suggestions that support immigrant integration into the community.  You can send your ideas and examples to by February 9, 2015.  I will suggest requiring English proficiency and providing assistance to learn the English language within the first 1-2 years of immigrating to the USA.  What would you recommend?