Guide helps immigrants settle in the U.S.
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 6, 2005

Book contains instructions for important tasks

Daniel González

For the first time, the U.S. government has created a multi-lingual guide to help the growing number of legal immigrants settle more rapidly.

Titled Welcome to the United States, A Guide for New Immigrants, the 102-page guide walks immigrants through everything from opening a bank account and getting a driver's license to obtaining child care and preparing for emergencies.

It also includes a brief history of the United States and outlines the steps for becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The book targets legal permanent residents, not undocumented immigrants. Downloaded for free from the Internet, or purchased for $9.50 from the government, the guide is modeled after similar guides produced by Australia and other countries with large immigrant populations, Alfonso Aguilar, chief of the Office of Citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Tuesday during an interview in Phoenix.

"We are a nation of immigrants, yet we did not have something as simple as a guide," Aguilar said.

Since June, Aguilar has been visiting cities with large immigrant populations to promote the guide.

The Census Bureau estimated in 2003 that the foreign-born population in Arizona exceeded 757,271 people, or about 13.8 percent of the state's 5.6 million population.

The Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington, D.C., research organization, estimated that in 2004, 10.4 million, or 29 percent, of the nation's 35.7 million foreign-born population were legal permanent residents.

Luis Ibarra, president and CEO of Friendly House, a non-profit organization that provides English classes and other services to Latino immigrants, praised the guide. There is limited information to help immigrants settle in the United States, he said.

"Instead of so much emphasis on enforcement, it's nice to see an emphasis placed on helping immigrants integrate," Ibarra said.

In addition to English, the guide has been published in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Portuguese. Later this month, the government will launch an Arabic version. Eventually, the government plans to publish guides in Korean, French, Haitian/Creole and Tagalog.

"It's really a how-to-settle-in-the-U.S. 101," Aguilar said.

The guide is part of a $7 million effort by the government to develop educational materials to help immigrants integrate into the United States, and provide citizenship training for immigrants who chose to become U.S. citizens. As part of the effort, the government also has created a set of civics flash cards to help eligible immigrants prepare for the citizenship test.

The government is in the process of creating a new citizenship test that is more meaningful, but not harder than the current test, Aguilar said.

The government plans to unveil the new test by January 2007, and implement it by January 2008, Aguilar said.

Reach the reporter at daniel .gonzalez@arizonarepublic .com or (602) 444-8312.