Bush: Assimilation Means Language, Civics, History Lessons
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Jun 8 13:19:02 UTC 2006
Bush: Assimilation Means Language, Civics, History Lessons
South Omaha Listens Intently To Bush's Message
UPDATED: 4:03 pm CDT June 7, 2006
OMAHA, Neb. -- President George W. Bush told a group of 400 invited guests
at Metro Community College on Wednesday morning that his immigration plan
is based on assimilation, and that assimilation means learning English,
civics and American history. Bush said he'll return to Washington and sign
an executive order to promote assimilation and help put volunteers
together with immigrants to teach the skills. Bush started his Wednesday
morning in Omaha at the Juan Diego, a Catholic Charities arm, where many
of Omaha's immigrants find services when they first arrive. Bush visited
the center for about 20 minutes on Wednesday and met with two groups of
students. One group is in a business class at the center and the other is
in a citizenship class.
"It's a center of love and compassion," Bush said of the Juan Diego
Center. "It's a place where volunteers come to reach out to somebody who
could use a little extra help. I saw a place where people were learning to
speak English, and learning the civics lessons of what it means to be an
American citizen. I sat around a table with entrepreneurs." Bush told the
story of meeting Salvador Pia, who went to the center when he first
arrived in Omaha to ask for help setting up a business. He got a $10,000
loan, and today owns Pia Auto Repair and employs 20 people. Bush said it
is the perfect example of the kind of immigration law he's promoting.
"They don't need to be inspired to dream big dreams, they just need a
little help. That's what America's all about," Bush said. "By the way, if
you're looking for a good man to fix your car -- give old Salvador a
chance. We want to encourage an ownership society. When you hear people
like me talk about assimilation, that's what we're talking about. Helping
us to remain one nation under God. I want to thank a dreamer like Salvador
for coming here, obeying the law and creating a dream." Bush thanked U.S.
Sen. Chuck Hagel for his leadership in Washington on the immigration
issue. Hagel said on Tuesday that the Senate hopes to have a conference
report in place within the next few weeks on immigration which would be a
starting point for legislation.
"What the president talked about is the very fabric of our society," Hagel
said Wednesday. "How we deal with these humanitarian issues, as well as
border enforcement and economic issues." Bush said his comprehensive
immigration plan would make the nation's borders safe a secure, the rule
of law would prevail and the American dream would flourish. "We're a
nation of laws and we want to uphold those laws," Bush said. "We're also
a compassionate nation. We treat people compassionately, and the two are
not in conflict."
Bush said he wants a temporary worker plan to get migrant workers into the
country legally to do the jobs American companies need filled. Bush said
such a plan would decrease the temptation for workers to sneak across the
border illegally. "I guarantee you many people here in the state of
Nebraska -- people in the agriculture sector -- agree we need a rational
plan," Bush said. Bush said people approved to cross the border on
temporary work permits would need to pass a criminal background check.
Then, a tamper-proof identification card would be issued so that employers
would know that the approved worker's papers were not forged. Bush said
forgeries are a tough part of the illegal worker system in place across
the country now.
Bush said people already in the country should have a process to stay
legally in the United States. He said workers would learn English, pay a
fine, then get in line for citizenship. Bush also praised Gov. Dave
Heineman, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, Secretary of State John Gale and Rep. Tom
Osborne. "I'm proud to be here with one of the most decent men in the
United States Congress. A man who didn't have to go into public service --
Tom Osborne is one of the fine, fine Americans," Bush said. Bush also sent
greetings from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Nebraska Gov. Mike
Johanns, and from his wife, Laura Bush. In addition, he praised Metro
Community College, and said community colleges are one of the best ways
for all workers to advance their skills.
During his speech, the president inadvertently promoted one person on the
MCC board, and misidentified the college president. Bush pointed out
Heather Fowler, who is not president of the college, as the president
said, but "student ex officio" -- elected by Metro students to sit on the
board of directors. It's a non-voting position. "Where is Heather?" Bush
said near the top of his remarks. "There you are. You got a lousy seat,
but that's OK. She should have had a better seat because she's the
president of the community college." The White House said Bush met Fowler
backstage and was referring to her as president of the student body.
Jo Ann McDowell is president of Metro Community College. Bush did
recognize her in his remarks, but called her Jodi. Bush is focused once
again on reforming the nation's immigration policy. He has promised to
get the border enforced and has been warning those who enter the country
illegally that if they get caught they will be sent back home. Along his
route in Omaha, Bush was greeted by people hoping for a brush with
"Cool guy," said Tom Merwaldgood. "Good to see him." "We just care about
him as a person," said Bush supporter Carol Legge, who held up a sign near
the Juan Diego Center. "We know he's going through a tough time and we
want to support him." Others hoped to send a message that they don't agree
with his policies. "We're having enough trouble," said protester Lou
Wolff. "Our boys can't get jobs -- American boys can't get jobs because we
can't afford to work for the pay they wanna pay us." "It's important for
President Bush to know there are people who care about people in this
immigration debate," said protester Diane Amdor.
"We've never been able to get close than two blocks to the president when
he's in town," said protester Elaine Wells. "He doesn't invite the public.
He only invites his friends." Omaha was the third stop on a three-state
tour to promote Bush's plan as Congress tries to bang out a compromise.
The president laid out his plan at a border patrol training facility in
New Mexico on Tuesday. Beefed-up security, a temporary guest worker
program and a path to what he calls earned citizenship are all part of his
plan to reform immigration laws.
"Our job is to put something on paper that will work so border patrol
agents can get their job done," Bush said. The president is optimistic
that Congress can get the job done, but even Bush admits it will be hard
work. In Washington, House Republicans are showing little sign of meeting
the president's demands to compromise. Conservatives have refused to back
any bill that would make illegal immigrant workers legal. Negotiators will
have to mesh the two very different bills from the House and Senate. The
president's stop in Omaha was part of his push to make that happen.
Sen. Ben Nelson sent out a reaction to Bush's speech from his Washington
office. In it, he said it may be necessary to separate the border security
piece from the worker program. "It would be unfortunate if the amnesty
plans killed any hope for securing our borders this year," Nelson said in
a news release. "If we don't secure the border first, our borders will
remain open and the problem will just get worse. I offered a plan that did
that with more border agents, a border barrier, more detention beds and
cracked down on employers who intentionally hire illegal workers."
Nelson's opponent in November, Pete Ricketts, was a guest of the Omaha
Archdiocese at Bush's speech.
"The president hit on a couple of key issues that there is consensus
around, that we need to secure the border. That's got to be the top
priority, and it's not just about immigration. It's about terrorism and
drugs, as well," Ricketts said.
Latinos in Omaha told KETV NewsWatch 7 on Tuesday that they have mixed
feelings about the president's visit. They're grateful for what he wants
to do about immigration reform, but they said they need to see it to
believe it. Jacobo's Grocery Store on the corner of 24th and L streets has
been the go to place for Latinos for 30 years. It's also the place you can
put your finger on the pulse of Latinos in Omaha. "It's an honor to host a
president, whatever the reason for him coming down," said owner Carlos
Jacobo, who helped his father bring their dream of owning grocery store to
reality. "I was helping my dad fullfill his dream and it became my dream,
Jacobo said it is the search for that dream that brings immigrants here.
"That's all they want to do -- come over here to work to help their family
over there," Jacobo said. Deli clerk Nelcy Vargas, 18, was born in Omaha,
but she said it wasn't easy for her parents to get here. She said some of
her customers live in fear of a crackdown on illegals. "One day there was
a rumor they were here and we didn't have a lot of business," Vargas said.
Father Damian Zuerlein, who works with a lot of south Omaha immigrants,
said that fear isn't surprising.
"There's no reason for them to trust," Zuerlein said. Zuerlein said that
Latinos who come to the U.S. illegally are economic refugees. He said the
free-trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico in 1993
forced Hispanics to emigrate to the U.S. "A guy who's got three acres of
land and a few goats in Mexico is supposed to compete with a farmer with
1000 acres of corn and all this equipment?" Zuerlein asked. Zuerlein said
that the only way to level the playing field is to legalize those
immigrants. That's the message the folks at Jacobo's hope Bush will hear
and deliver. Zuerlein was to meet Bush on Wednesday, and he said he would
tell the president that his immigrant overhaul plan is necessary.
Bush Lands Tuesday
President George W. Bush's Air Force One touched down in Omaha at about
6:35 p.m. Tuesday. The president was met by a group of local political
leaders, including Sen. Chuck Hagel, Gov. Dave Heineman, Rep. Tom Osborne
and Attorney General Jon Bruning. Bush immediately presented a volunteer
award to John "Buzz" Garlock, who started a stock-picking contest at
Wagner Middle School. He's helped with scholarship fundraising for Girls
and Boys Town, participates in a reading and mentoring program at Wagner
and was a volunteer basketball coach for the state champion Girls and Boys
Town High School team. Garlock was given the President's Volunteer Service
"It's quite an honor, you can imagine, a lot of pride to it, that
opportunity. It really is," Garlock said. Omaha police said 10th Street
from Capitol Avenue to Webster Street will be closed from Tuesday at noon
until Wednesday at noon. That's the area in front of the Hilton Hotel and
Qwest Center Omaha. Also on Wednesday, Q Street will be closed from 7 a.m.
to 10 a.m. during Bush's visit.
More information about the Lgpolicy-list