Increased legal immigration creates concerns among many regarding possible effects on our American identity. Immigration reform efforts must take these concerns into account and support the ongoing process of shaping the American identity influenced, as it has always been, by new immigrants, yet grounded in traditional core values of equality, freedom, and opportunity. To that end, both government and the private sector need to invest in more programs of English language acquisition and civic education.
Creating increased opportunities for permanent migration, although a significant number may opt for periodic migration, is an important way to create incentives for immigrants to become more fully integrated into American society. Creating and expanding English acquisition and civic education learning opportunities that are crucial to that integration process must also be part of the comprehensive immigration formula. Unfortunately, the desire within immigrant communities to learn English far outpaces the capacity of the existing educational infrastructure.
Given the societal and worker productivity implications of the growing demand for adult English language and literacy education, the responsibility to meet the demand falls jointly upon the public and private sectors. Successful immigrant integration efforts exist at the state and local level and should serve as models for action at the national level. For example, the New Americans Initiative, a partnership between the state of Illinois and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, to encourage eligible immigrants to become citizens, is an important example of the kind of work needed to help immigrants in their efforts to become full members of society.
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