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September 19, 2006

respect for english language learners

In my time floundering around teaching adult ESL classes, I learned a couple things: 1) Attending ESL classes is like making regular visits to the gym -- everybody wants to do it, but few darken the doorstep more than a few times, and 2) as with fitness, adults who stick with a plan -- at work, in a class, or at home -- deserve tremendous respect.

It is a tough, uphill climb.

In yesterday's Houston Chronicle, an excellent article explored the challenges faced by adult English language learners.

"Many immigrants don't speak English, but it's not because they are lazy or don't want to learn it or want to make everyone else speak Spanish or Vietnamese. They just have other priorities like providing for their basic needs," says Nelson Reyes, executive director of the Gulfton Area Neighborhood Organization.

I've asked myself, why do some succeed while others don't? I think of some I've known to succeed (not all have been my students):

I think of my mother-in-law who learned over the years by watching cartoons with the kids and grandkids, listening to English-language radio and laughing at her mistakes (she still won't say sabana (sheet) in English -- for fear of cursing).

Of Angel who told his boss about my ESL class -- resulting in the boss taking him under his wing -- and teaching him English on the job.

Of Carol who has attended classes on and off for years at her local library -- and is now in the advanced course.

And of Neilys who stuck with my class, faithfully did her homework and used English whenever possible -- she now works as a Wal-Mart cashier interacting with the public every day.

Why did they succeed? Natural ability? Persistence over time? Supportive family and community? Asking questions? Great curriculum? Teacher competence? Fearlessness?

I'm so proud of those who have succeeded, but also concerned about those that haven't. Did I in any way contribute to their discouragement? Did they feel that they couldn't succeed in my class. I confess that I most enjoy teaching those with high literacy levels (some high school or greater). It is hard for me to effectively teach those with lower literacy levels -- not because of an inability to learn, but rather, because of my struggles to teach without relying on text.

Perhaps it is my very framework of teaching that needs to change. Maybe it isn't about transmitting information and more about leading the students on an exploration...

...so where does the teacher go to learn?

Posted by almamia at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

white, republican, suburban male with no college degree

So this morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and the laptop to check the daily headlines.

Top on the list was an article in the Rocky Mountain News reporting on a poll it had conducted with CBS 4 Denver on the immigration issue. The poll really didn't shed any new light on anything for me... It found that "Nearly two of every three Colorado voters think illegal immigrants should be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they pay taxes, learn English and meet other requirements" and that "Only 15 percent of those polled favor mass deportations."

That "there's a silent majority that is supportive of a more middle-ground approach."

That "illegal immigration remains a top concern among the state's voters and will be a key issue in the governor's race." (one reason Bill Ritter is getting my vote).

That Bob Beauprez will need to "take advantage of the issue", yet as he raises the issue will "have to defend his record in Congress on this issue." (one reason he is not getting my vote)

That "Voters clearly see that there's more to do on this issue."

And that "61 percent said they support an earned citizenship approach, allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country and eventually become citizens if they meet certain requirements."

Yada yada yada. We already know this.

But then buried deep into the otherwise unenlightening article, they threw in this statistic: "The typical voter who listed illegal immigration as the top issue this election is a suburban, white, Republican man without a college degree."


Posted by almamia at 8:03 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2006

clergy denounce good ol' boy tancredo


Tom Tancredo (AP Wide World Photos)

Today's Rocky Mountain News reports that Denver Clergy have denounced Tancredo's appearance at a neo-confederate hate group event. (Full Article)

The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and the Latino clergy group Confianza said they were outraged that Tancredo spoke at an event Saturday at the South Carolina State Museum where the Confederate flag reportedly was on the podium and Tancredo joined the crowd in singing the Southern anthem Dixie.

The controversy began when an anti-racism group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, posted an online article calling the gathering a "hate-group event."


Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa has accused the law center of intentionally fabricating facts to discredit the congressman. He acknowledged that there were Confederate flags in the room and said Tancredo joined in singing Dixie.

But, Espinosa said earlier this week, "These aren't racist people who spew out hate. These are just people remembering and cherishing their past."

That comment angered the Rev. Steven Dewberry of New Horizon Christian Community Ministries in Denver.

"To join in singing Dixie, (and) to walk into a room that has a huge Confederate flag in it, that should have been his notice to walk out," Dewberry said Thursday.

"Their past is our anguish, our slavery, our lynchings. It breaks our heart to think we still have some white brothers and sisters in (Tancredo's) district that agree with this wild behavior of his."

I found the Confederate Flags, singing of Dixie and Espinosa's comment that "These are just people remembering and cherishing their past" a little ironic and puzzling.

I could swear that NOTHING so gracious was stated when Tancredo was all worked up about the Mexican flags and Spanish language chants at the April and May immigration rallies.

Link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's report here. Additional details and commentary on Tancredo and the event can be found in the September 13th & 14th entries on Tancredo Watch.

Posted by almamia at 9:11 AM | Comments (0)

September 8, 2006

migrant and minutemen photos


The following caught my eye today... If you live in Denver, go check it out.

Regis University is pleased to announce a unique and rare display of photographs showing both sides of the immigration conflict. The Border Film Project features a collection of photos taken by undocumented migrants trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States, and by the American minutemen trying to stop them.


The exhibit was put together by the Border Film Project, three college friends with a passion for the immigration dilemma in common. More than 600 disposable cameras were sent to undocumented migrants crossing the desert and the American minutemen protecting our borders. The hope was to find a way of reaching a more personal, human understanding of the illegal immigration issue.


If you are not local to Denver or cannot get to the gallery, go check out the photos on the Border Film Project web site. There are 45 photos from migrant cameras and 40 from minutemen cameras.

Posted by almamia at 5:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 7, 2006

drugs, violence and corruption

This article in today's Houston Chronicle should shed some light on the immigration issue for those scratching their heads and wondering why on earth folks from Mexico don't just "stay home".

By MARION LLOYD Houston Chronicle Foreign Service

MEXICO CITY Masked gunmen burst into a nightclub early Wednesday and flung five human heads onto the dance floor in what was easily one of the most shocking incidents of drug violence in Mexico this year.


The gruesome episode brought to at least 13 the number of people decapitated so far this year in Michoacan, a normally tranquil state that has been drawn into a horrific, increasingly violent turf war between rival cartels.

Nationwide, drug violence this year has claimed a record 1,500 lives, including more than 300 in Michoacan, known for lush pine forests and the charming colonial cities of Morelia and Patzcuaro.

Federal authorities are alarmed.

''Mexico is witnessing extreme violence like we've never seen before," said Santiago Vasconcelos, the country's drug czar.


That is little comfort to residents. Even many of the police in Michoacan 13 have been killed this year alone are terrified.

''Any sane person would be scared," said Marco Antonio Gonzalez, mayor of the cattle town of Tepalcatepec, where four severed heads were recently found hanging on a roadside cross.

Interviewed at the town hall, he admitted he was considering fleeing with his wife and newborn baby. But, he added, "Where would we go?"


It's not just the frequency of the violence that frightens Mexicans. It's the brutality.

Traffickers' increasingly gruesome methods include: blowing their victims up with grenades, cutting them to pieces or chopping off their heads.

Gang members are also more brazen in choosing their targets. On Aug. 17, suspected hit men gunned down a federal judge. Judges, who are rarely attacked, are now demanding police protection.

Mexican officials say the violence is the result of their own success in beheading the nation's drug cartels.

''Their heads have been deactivated and put in a jar," Vasconcelos said in an interview.

In response, he says, traffickers are waging an internecine war for control of the drug routes and Mexico's increasingly lucrative domestic market.

''The criminal organizations have no way of reacting other than with violence," he said. ''And violence begets violence."


But for now, Michoacan must cope with the violence. With just 4 million residents, the state now ranks third in the number of victims behind Baja California and Tamaulipas, which borders Texas.

''Michoacan is looking like Medellin and Cali in the worst of times," said writer Homero Aridjis, a native of the state.


Narcotics officials point to Michoacan's strategic importance as a transshipment point for South American cocaine. After landing on the Pacific coast, the drugs are often trucked to Apatzingan, a bustling agricultural town two hours inland, then they are flown to points north from nearby Guadalajara. And the traffic is expected to grow with plans to convert the state's main coastal city, Lazaro Cardenas, into a major container port.

But there's another critical factor fueling the violence: Michoacan is the country's leading producer of crystal methamphetamines, or ice, which has been rising in popularity in the U.S.


The surrounding fertile region also has a long history of producing marijuana and poppies for making heroin, along with cotton, lemons and papayas.

These days, however, some locals are shunning agriculture in favor of the more profitable synthetic drug trade, Mexican officials say.

And signs of their prosperity are easy to spot. Some locals snap up Hummers at a dealership that recently opened outside Apatzingan. Others cruise through the town in gleaming pickups with tinted windows.

Some police officers can't help but join the action.

In August, 24 municipal police officers from Apatzingan were indicted on charges of conspiring with the powerful Gulf cartel, whose bloody rivalry with the Sinaloa cartel is blamed for much of the violence nationwide. The traffickers have also corrupted state and federal police, narcotics officials say.

''The only way to stop the violence in Michoacan would be to replace the entire police force at all levels," said a state intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''You can't imagine what a huge problem we have here." full article

Posted by almamia at 9:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 6, 2006



to my friend whose eyes shine with delight at child's play and upon children

who taught my girls to paint their nails with a red crayon

to my friend who followed her heart

and arrived at her father's bedside just before his passing

to my friend who loves her children more than life itself

and blesses them with love's legacy

to my friend displaced not by the few short miles, but by a system

whose reunion with her husband and daughters is uncertain

to my friend who is sustained by faith in God

who will never regret going back and we hope will return soon

we understand. and are so sorry.

Posted by almamia at 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

September 4, 2006

charges against Sellz/Strauss dismissed

This past Friday, the ridiculous charges against Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss were dismissed. The Tucson Citizen reports:

In a dramatic ruling Friday, the year-long case against humanitarians Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss was dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins found that the government for years has led No More Deaths volunteers to believe they could legally provide care to ailing illegal immigrants. Sellz and Strauss could not be prosecuted for what had been deemed legal, Collins found.

The college students were in the desert near Arivaca on July 9, 2005, when they encountered five illegal immigrants. Two of the men showed signs of severe dehydration, so Sellz and Strauss called physicians in Tucson and were advised to rush the men to a hospital.
Before they could reach Tucson, Border Patrol agents arrested them and apprehended the two men.

Sellz and Strauss willingly faced an uncertain future, refusing from the outset to accept a plea agreement.

"We have committed no crime," Strauss said on July 21, 2005.

On Friday, Collins agreed. "The judge recognized that Samaritans (a group that is part of No More Deaths) really is a humanitarian organization," said Bill Walker, who joined Stanley Feldman, a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, to defend Sellz free of charge. "What the judge said is, No More Deaths isn't an organization smuggling immigrants. "That's a great victory for everybody in Tucson and on the border who wants to make sure people don't die in the desert."

The Rev. John Fife, founder of Samaritans, rejoiced. "This is vindication for our position from the very beginning. And that is, humanitarian aid is never a crime," he said.
(full article)

For background on this case, view the video posted on Migra Matters last February.

Posted by almamia at 9:34 PM | Comments (0)