Polish Daily News
By Janusz M. Szlechta, Nowy Dziennik / Translated from
Polish by Ania Milewska.
New York Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott announced that the city would allocate $1.8
million to fund English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for immigrant
families. This decision is the city’s response to the protest that took place
last Wednesday in front of the City Hall. During the rally, immigrants demanded
from the city more pro-immigrant policies and more assistance in providing
“I am convinced that thanks to our own and the private funds – close to $3
million more – immigrants in the process of obtaining permanent residency status
or U.S. citizenship will be able to brush up their English reading and writing
skills, they will be able to acquire new knowledge and faith in their own
capabilities,” Walcott stated.
Over 600 immigrants and leaders of immigrant organizations demanded last
Wednesday that New York City officials provide appropriate assistance in solving
key problems concerning immigrants. The protesters demanded more funding for ESL
education, help in putting a stop to often unjustified arrests of immigrants by
the NYPD and assistance in improving the benefits available within the public
school system to children of immigrant families.
According to the latest report of the NYC Department of City Planning, the 2000
census shows that nearly that one in every four New Yorkers – about half a
million people total – claims to have problems with the English language.
According to the report, ESL classrooms are too full, which prevents many
immigrants from making significant progress in speaking and writing English.
Only about 5 percent of immigrants wanting to learn English are able to find
appropriate programs and only 1 percent claim that they are able to obtain
practical knowledge thanks to the programs they are enrolled in. The report also
shows that immigrants from China, Mexico and the Dominican Republic seem to have
the most difficulties mastering English. The birth-rate among those three ethnic
groups is the highest among immigrant groups in the city. As a result, according
to the report, new communication problems arise within families.
A complete list of demands had been delivered to the offices of the NYC Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Police Commissioner Raymond W.
Kelly and members of the City Council. The list of postulates reflects great
dissatisfaction on the part of immigrant communities with the lack of interest
of city authorities have shown concerning the pressing issues immigrant groups
face in New York City.
“Most of all we need means to educate our children. The government and city
authorities have been promising a lot, but not much has come out of it,” said
Vladimir Epstheyn, president of the Russian American Voters Educational League.
“We want more ESL classes and more teachers,” chanted a representative of a
Colombian immigrants group. Polina Lemberg, a Russian woman working for the
Church Avenue Merchants Block Association (CAMBA) Legal Services, located in
Flatbush, told Nowy Dziennik that she was participating in the protest to
fight for the right of immigrants to a normal life. Lemberg said that her
organization helps immigrants with a wide range of issues free of charge. “A lot
of Polish people take advantage of our services,” she added.
Family reading and writing programs are becoming increasingly popular among New
York immigrants. The goal of those programs is to help adults gain the
confidence they need in communicating through attending classes with their
“Last year New York was the first city to sponsor such a [ESL] program,” said
Jeanne Mullgrav, commissioner of the City Department of Youth and Community
Development. Thanks to the $1 million from the taxes and a grant of $300,000
from the Toyota Family Literacy Program, the city was able open 10 reading and
writing programs in each borough.
The latest report of the NYC Department of City Planning titled:The Newest
New Yorkers 2000 shows that between 1990 and 2000 the number of New Yorkers
who were born abroad increased by 38 percent, reaching the record number of 2.9
million. The document shows a major gap between the crucial contribution to the
development of the city that immigrants are making and the interest (or rather
lack of it) of the City authorities in the needs of immigrants.
Translation © 2005, IPA, all rights reserved. Included by permisson of
Nowy Dziennik / Polish Daily News.