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Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

Migrant students facing English hurdle

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
October 11, 2007

Migrant-worker families who come from Mexico seeking farming jobs and better lives often struggle to settle down in California — and their children struggle to get an education while constantly moving from place to place.

Of the Sequoia High School District’s population of 8,190 students, roughly 410 qualify as migrant students, meaning their parents have been employed as farmworkers in the United States or Mexico in the past three years, said Suana Gilman-Ponce, director of English Learner instruction for the district.
While many English Learner students struggle to gain fluency, students of migrant families often come in with little or no education at all, posing greater challenges for students and their teachers.

Migrant parents are often busy working — and lack the fluency to be involved in their kids’ education. In response, the district is recruiting for a new position — an ombudsman who would act as a liaison between the district and migrant-farmworker families whose students are enrolled in its schools.

“Sometimes we believe our parents don’t care, or we just don’t see them often — but when we offer workshops they are eager to get information [about their children’s education],” said Patricia Cocconi, director of the district’s adult school.

The Medina family, which came to the Peninsula from rural Michoacan in Mexico, has benefited from Sequoia’s migrant-student programs, which are supported by roughly $290,000 in federal funds each year, Gilman-Ponce said.

While the youngest child, Michael Medina, recently earned his diploma from Menlo-Atherton, his mother, Patricia, is working toward her GED — and Michael’s grandmother, Zenaida, is learning to read.

“When I think of it, I get goosebumps,” said Dante Medina, Michael’s uncle. “I think it’s never too late for anything.”

Despite some success stories, the majority of migrant students struggle. In 2005-06, 56 percent of migrant students scored below basic or far below basic on California standardized tests on the English portion of the exam, while 60 percent scored at the same levels in mathematics, Gilman-Ponce said.

Getting parents involved has proven the key to student success. “The district has a commitment to providing these parents with education, a point of contact, a person they can go to with questions,” Gilman-Ponce said.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

October 11, 2007 at 10:40 PM

Deportation forces kids to make tough choices

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
April 3, 2007

Four local children, all U.S. citizens, are leaving the country Friday to remain with their parents, who have been ordered deported by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Their father, Pedro Ramirez, was deported to Mexico Feb. 28 within hours of his arrest. Their mother, Isabel Aguirre, was immediately placed under house arrest and ordered to leave the country by Friday, leaving the future of their four children in question. Ramirez and Aguirre have lived in the United State since 1985 and 1989, respectively.

All four children — 6-year-old Adriana, 10-year-old Yadira, 12-year-old Adrian and 15-year-old Pedro — have chosen to go to Mexico to remain with their parents rather than be placed in foster homes, the family’s advocates said at a press conference Monday. While the advocates decried recent ICE raids for tearing families apart, ICE officials said that it’s parents choosing to remain in the country illegally — not federal immigrations officers — who put their children at risk.

“The parents know they are in the country illegally, and they should have been expecting at some point that this would pose risks and consequences for their children,” ICE spokeswoman Laurie Haley said. Ramirez and Aguirre were ordered deported in 2000 and lost an appeal on that order in 2005, according to Haley.

The press conference was held at the first United Methodist Church and organized by American Muslim Voice, and the speakers were from those organizations as well as other spiritual groups. Many of the speakers, including the children, said the choice between deportation and foster care seemed unfair.

“I would rather stay here,” said Adrian, a student at Terman Middle School. “We have a better education here, and I’m going to leave my friends behind.”

Chris Schultz, a math teacher at Gunn High School, said he has consoled Pedro a number of times regarding his decision to move to Mexico.

“It’s not fair to make any 15-year-old have to make that kind of life-separating choice,” Schultz said.

ICE stepped up its enforcement efforts in October 2006, targeting immigrants who have ignored deportation orders, Haley said. Since then, its officers have made 1,400 arrests, including 785 “fugitives” and 615 with no prior deportation orders. By the end of this year, ICE will increase the number of teams working nationally from 52 to 75, according to Haley.

ICE raids in San Francisco and the Peninsula frightened many immigrants, some of whom stopped going to work or kept children home from school for fear they would be detained while at schools or on the job. While San Francisco is a sanctuary city, meaning its police force does not check citizenship papers or cooperate in the deportation of residents, some Peninsula cities do check residents’ status.

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

April 3, 2007 at 11:39 PM

Posted in immigration, Palo Alto

Local officials resist immigration sweeps

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
February 26, 2007

In the wake of recent sweeps by immigration officers in San Francisco and on the Peninsula, officials are struggling to assure residents that local police are not cooperating with federal deportation efforts.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will weigh a resolution, sponsored by Supervisors Chris Daly, Gerardo Sandoval and Tom Ammiano, that condemns the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. Meanwhile, the newly formed Redwood City Coalition for Immigrant Rights plansto bring a similar resolution to the Redwood City Council and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and perhaps create a “sanctuary” policy similar to San Francisco’s, in which law officers do not check residents’ citizenship status, according to Sheryl Bergman with the International Institute of San Francisco.

The San Francisco vote comes on the heels of a similar resolution sponsored by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd urging Congress to resume immigration reform talks abandoned last year.

“There are thousands of illegal immigrants living in the shadows, and our quality of life issues still affect them,” Elsbernd said. “They are here and by no means should we ignore them.”

Redwood City police officers and San Mateo County Sheriff’s officers already do not check immigration paperwork, but members of the coalition hope to make that message stronger, according to Bergman.

“A resolution would go a long way toward unifying the community and reassuring [residents],” Bergman said. “These are our neighbors, and we need to insist on policies that respect constitutional rights and public safety.”

Between Oct. 1, 2006, and Jan. 26, 2007, ICE officers arrested 838 people, 500 of whom had already received a deportation order from a judge and 338 of whom were newly entered into deportation proceedings, according to ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. Those arrests included a number of San Mateo County residents, while ICE officers swept through a San Francisco meatpacking plant and have been seen checking papers in the Tenderloin, according to Renee Saucedo, attorney and organizer with La Raza Central Legal.

“We recognize the fact that local law enforcement has a very different mission from ICE,” Kice said. “But part of ICE’s mission is enforcing immigration laws, and people who are in the country illegally are subject to arrest.”

Redwood City parents kept children home from school recentlyafter a mother was arrested and unable to pick up her children.

Enrollment levels began returning to normal last week, according to John Baker, assistant superintendent in the Redwood City School District.

Those arrests have sparked outcry from immigrant-rights groups and high-ranking politicians alike. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom decried the raids in a statement this month, while Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, told ICE in a letter that its efforts are undermining local police’s efforts to build trust within immigrant communities.

Immigrant-rights groups are planning a series of events this week in San Francisco.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

February 26, 2007 at 10:36 PM

English-language programs face challenges

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
January 3, 2007

Teaching English to young immigrants is a little like working with free agents in sports: You never know how long it’ll be before they move on.

The combination of high immigration rates and housing costs on the Peninsula keeps many immigrant children mobile, according to Gary Johnson, deputy superintendent in the Jefferson High School District.

Considering it can take five or more years for them to gain fluency — both conversationally and academically — that can be bad news for students and schools alike.

“You gather them together, sprint for one year, and there’s no guarantee it will be the same kids next year,” Johnson said. “You try to figure out how you’re going to get the most out of them.”

Sometimes students don’t realize until their senior year how important fluency is to their future success, said Elena Henderson, who teaches at Redwood High School.

“They hear about it, but they don’t completely believe it,” Henderson said. “That dawning doesn’t always take place until they’re a little bit older. But what gives me heart is that some students don’t give up, and they go to adult programs. It’s never too late.”

Each year, 2 to 9 percent of local schools’ populations are new immigrants, many of whom come to the Peninsula with little to no English. But under No Child Left Behind, schools are required to show annual improvement on standardized tests — even among English-language learners — and the constant influx prevents schools from making enough progress.

In the north county, the district with the most English learners — Daly City’s Jefferson Elementary — failed to meet federal benchmarks in 2005-06.

South San Francisco’s Parkway Heights Middle School, where 31 percent of students are English-language learners, is facing its fourth year of federal penalties, according to the California Department of Education.

The challenge, for both students and teachers, is helping students understand not just plain English, but what officials call “academic language,” according to Christina Robles, English Language Development coordinator for the Jefferson Elementary School District.

“[These exams] test whether students can understand the written word and the implications of those words, and the application of those to a word or a math problem. It’s very complex,” Johnson said.

When state and federal assessment scores were released last summer, California Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell railed against the growing achievement gap.

Despite O’Connell’s crusade, however, districts continue to make do with existing general-fund dollars and scarce grant money when it comes to teaching English-language learners. Only Jefferson received additional funding this year — $35,000 — because its number of immigrant students increased, according to Johnson.

Program Improvement in a nutshell
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools and districts must show progress on student test scores, specifically on the California Standards Test and on the California High School Exit Exam. If they fail to show adequate progress two years in a row, they gain “Program Improvement” status and face increasing sanctions for each year of PI.

» Year One: School or district must notify parents, set aside 5 percent of school funds for teacher training, revise school plan to address problems.

» Year Two: School or district must notify parents, implement plan developed in year one, continue funding set-asides.

» Year Three: Corrective action begins, including implementing new curriculum, replacing staff, decreasing management, extending school day or year, or school restructuring.

» Year Four: School must develop alternative governance plan, replace most or all staff (including principal), contract with an outside agency to manage the school, or allow a state takeover.

» Year Five: School must implement restructuring plan created in Year Four.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

January 3, 2007 at 10:06 PM

City to continue citing day laborers

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
October 2, 2006

SAN MATEO — City officials are reviewing an enforcement strategy that has seen some tickets against day laborers dismissed by juries, but police say the stings have been effective and will continue for now.

Some laborers have successfully fought their tickets after an undercover police officer impersonated a potential employer, according to defense attorney Tanya O’Malley. In one such case, pursued by laborer Ramirez Lopez Sofonias, the ticket was dismissed Aug. 29 by a jury that found such practices constituted entrapment. The city attorney’s office dismissed the ticket of another worker cited in the same sting, according to City Attorney Shawn Mason.

San Mateo’s parking ordinance makes it a crime to park a vehicle in the middle of the street. Many employers who stop to pick up day laborers do not pull over. In order to discourage loitering, police have issued citations and fines since 2003 to laborers who pick up work in this fashion, according to San Mateo Police Department Capt. Mike Callaghy.

“I think they’re all entrapment,” O’Malley said. “I think [the city] knows a lot of these individuals aren’t going to take them to trial — laborers just want to pay the fine, but it’s important to fight it.”

In three other cases, two workers did not want to proceed to a jury trial like Sofonias did, and a third did not turn up for his court date, according to O’Malley.

San Mateo does not plan to appeal those decisions, according to Mason, who said his office continues to examine the claims of other laborers fighting their citations. The city is also re-examining its enforcement strategy.

“We are discussing and meeting to determine if the appropriate enforcement strategy is going forward,” Mason said.

Meanwhile, city police say the sting program is working well to keep laborers off the streets and out of danger, according to Callagy.

“These are clear-cut violations,” Callagy said. “We were seeing people running out into the street to try and get a job, and without our presence, there would probably be a lot more people on the street and a lot more people running into traffic trying to get jobs.”

San Mateo and Samaritan House launched a day-labor center in 2003 shortly before police stepped up enforcement among laborers on the streets. That center currently sees 100 to 200 laborers per day, according to Kitty Lopez, executive director of Samaritan House.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

October 2, 2006 at 10:15 PM