On ELLs and Immigrants

Children are guaranteed access to public school. Not necessarily good schools, but A school. And by law, at least in some states (including NY), students can receive materials (and teaching) in their native language (depending on which language it is).

You see there are a lot of caveats, right? But still, there is SOMETHING for kids who need to go to school. There is a lot wrong with the system for these kids, but there IS a system.

And what about their parents?

Part of why I’m doing the work I’m doing is because adult learners are not given any of the support their children are. There are programs, sure, and the ones with money can pay for excellent courses. But for the ones who don’t have a lot of money or time, there’s no roadmap. Maybe you get lucky and live near a non-profit that does great work. Or maybe you have access to nothing and you struggle with any and all official documents.

And why is this? Because these adults are just immigrants. Or, to put it another way, they are SEEN as just immigrants, and that’s not exactly high status in this country, especially if your native language isn’t one people aspire to.

The children are immigrants too, of course. That’s just what the word means. But children have a future, see, and they have a chance to become “American.” The adults, they made their choices, they didn’t learn the language before coming, they get the table scraps to fight over, and if they end up in dire straits ebcause of it, then they shouldn’t have come here.

I think this classification hurts everyone, even the people who hate immigrants (not that I care about them, but still), because the successful integration of different cultures should be our goal as Americans. And in much more transactional terms, people who struggle with standard American English are limited in their employment opportunities, which is bad for any economy in which they could participate.

I have no grand point, and this certainly precedes Trump. But think about this before the next time you ponder why an adult struggles to improve their English while their children excel. It’s intentional. To some folks, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

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