En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Tribune
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Immigrant Group Pushes English Bill

Current measures touted by New York’s elected officials are making momentous strides to integrate the immigrant community with the rest of the City’s residents, said Ana Maria Archila.

Archila, co-executive director for Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group, attended a rally on Monday with local legislators and residents in support of a Congressional bill that pushes for English language education services for immigrants.

She said the bill would provide a multitude of immigrants an opportunity to successfully blend into American society, united in language.

The Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act of 2009, the brainchild of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and (D-New York) and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), is an attempt to tackle language needs.

Measures in the act set out to provide tax incentives for business and teachers that help provide literacy training and it establishes grants and upgrades for existing classes.

“This bill answers the question of who is allowed in this country and under what circumstances,” Archila said. “It recognizes that the future is here and is changing.”

NYC immigrant resources serve residents well, legislators and Archila said.

“But only a small fraction of immigrants are getting access to learn the skills needed to integrate successfully and be a part of a growing economy,” said Gillibrand in a press release. Gillibrand has been criticized by some over her position to make English the official language of the United States.

Clarke said Gillibrand, who helped organized the rally at Corona restaurant Terraza, was in Washington, D.C. to vote on bills.

The current immigrant services are overwhelmed with 1.5 million people in need of English instruction, said Gillibrand and Clarke.

With a boom in population, Archila and legislators said this bill would increase the number of able-bodied Americans prepared to compete in a global arena when the economy rebounds.

Archila stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Clarke and urged the need for support of this bill to the crowd at the rally.

Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza, stressed a need for support of the bill while giving a testimony of his experience emigrating from Columbia to America in 1999.

Castiblanco, who was a doctor in Columbia, spoke in support of the bill to a board of legislators in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Clarke and Gillibrand. In addition to the language services, Castiblanco asked legislators and Make the Road New York to be advocates and focus on health care reform for immigrants as well.

“We can’t wait for a general consensus,” he said of legislators whom deliberate over the bill. “We are even willing to contribute.”