N.C. at center of borders debate
The Charlotte Observer
Dec. 9, 2005
N.C. at center of borders debate
Myrick, others want tougher law
WASHINGTON - N.C. Republicans have charged into a battle over illegal immigration that's expected to build to a dramatic House vote next week.
But a vocal band of House conservatives -- including GOP Reps. Sue Myrick of Charlotte and Patrick McHenry of Cherryville -- is pushing to make that legislation even tougher.
Among other things, they want to build a fence along the Mexican border, deny citizenship to U.S.-born babies of illegal immigrants, and -- in Myrick's proposed amendment -- deport illegal immigrants convicted of driving drunk.
The DWI aspect of the immigration issue has sparked a fiery debate across Charlotte. In two separate car crashes, area drivers were killed by illegal Mexican immigrants charged with driving drunk.
In a reversal last week, a Latino driver was killed on Interstate 85 in Charlotte by a wrong-way pickup driven by an S.C. man who authorities believe had been drinking. He also was killed.
After the July death of Mount Holly teacher Scott Gardner, Myrick introduced a bill in his name to deport illegal immigrants after one drunken driving conviction.
The legislation that passed the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday would deport illegal and legal immigrants after three drunken driving convictions.
Myrick says that's too lenient, at least for illegal immigrants.
"I'm going to offer an amendment on the floor that says, `I don't think that we need to give them two more times to kill somebody,' " she said at a news conference staged by the 91-member House Immigration Reform Caucus.
Illegal immigration has particularly angered conservatives in North Carolina, home to an estimated 300,000 illegal immigrants. This week, Republican commissioners in Mecklenburg tried unsuccessfully to pass a plan that would deny services to illegal immigrants and refuse government contracts to businesses that employ them.
In Washington, six of North Carolina's seven Republican representatives are members of the Immigration Reform Caucus, chaired by Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who could run for president on a get-tough-on-illegal-immigration platform. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton also belongs to the caucus -- he's one of its two Democrats.
A few Tar Heel Republicans have been closely identified with immigration reform and will likely play prominent roles:
• Rep. Walter Jones of Farmville lauds the Minutemen -- a private border patrol in Arizona that President Bush once called vigilantes.
• McHenry, who spoke at the news conference, filed a bill to create a federal database to track immigrants applying for visas or citizenship.
• And Myrick, who is mulling a run for governor, has filed three immigration-reform bills this year. One would deny North Carolina its federal highway money unless it stops issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Another would boost the fine paid by businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants from $250 per employee to $10,000 -- with $8,000 of that reverting to local law enforcement.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee failed to amend the House bill to authorize a temporary guest-worker program -- one of Bush's main proposals.
The Senate, which is expected to take up immigration reform in February, is more likely to approve the provision, which is popular with business.
Rep. Mel Watt, a Democrat from Charlotte, voted against the bill at the Judiciary Committee meeting.
Republicans, he said, "are just trying to change the subject from other issues that they don't want to talk about.
"When the Republicans on the county commission ... and the Republicans up here start operating in tandem on an issue, you know there's something political going on."
BIENVENIDOS, DUAL-LANGUAGE PROGRAMS
Immersion emerges as top tool
Collinswood brings international honor to CMS magnet fair
"Four ... five ..."
Kindergartner Tonisha Shaw counts under her breath as she places magnetic dots on the board at Collinswood Language Academy, one of 49 magnet programs that will be on display Saturday in the CMS Magnet Schools Fair.
"Cuenta en español," teacher Jacqueline Saavedra reminds her.
Tonisha stops, magnet poised, turning this over in her mind.
At Collinswood, English- and Spanish-speaking students learn together in both languages, a technique called dual-language immersion.
The school has been doing so well that last month it was invited into a partnership with Spain's Ministry of Education and Science. Principal Maria Petrea traveled to the country to accept the honor, which gives Collinswood and 21 other schools in the U.S. and Canada access to teaching materials, training and exchange programs. Spain already has promised to send an assistant teacher next fall, at no cost to the district, Petrea said.
Studies suggest dual-language immersion is the best way for children to learn a second language -- even though teachers never directly teach either language.
Because the children start out on equal terms, they end up helping each other, Petrea said, and "eventually, children are able to transfer what they're learning to the second language."
Overall, Collinswood's third-, fourth- and fifth-graders scored above district averages in 2005 reading and math end-of-grade tests (which are given in English). Students classified as limited English proficient topped averages for the LEP grouping districtwide.
With such glowing results, why aren't more schools clamoring to add dual-immersion? For one thing, Petrea said, the program has to have roughly a 50-50 ratio of native English and Spanish speakers. It's also not meant for kids who are behind in developing their native language.
Those requirements could explain why some states, such as South Carolina, have no dual-language immersion programs while others with larger and more diverse populations have had them for decades. The trend has grown nationally from around 30 schools in the mid-'80s to at least 320, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics, a language research group in Washington.
Collinswood was the first dual-language immersion school in North Carolina when its program started nine years ago. Seven were added in the past four years, said Fran Hoch of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
CMS created one of those at Oaklawn Elementary last year in response to the growing waiting list at Collinswood.
Liliana Forero, a new teaching aide at Collinswood, said she's proud to have her daughter at the school so she can keep up with her culture and language.
"I'm sad when I see (Latino) fifth-graders who don't know how to speak any Spanish," said Forero, who moved here from Colombia five years ago and is still learning English herself.
This fall, Collinswood teachers are also helping state education officials develop curriculum for dual-language immersion. Part of a federal grant will go toward specialized in-state training, which Petrea said teachers need to learn how to expose students to more advanced conversational and written English and Spanish as they move up. Because if a course is in Spanish, everything is in Spanish -- discussion, assignments, tests.
"I got mad sometimes because I didn't understand what they were saying, and after we got to a certain grade they stopped translating," said fifth-grader Isis Francis, a native English speaker who has attended Collinswood since kindergarten. "But I think they're right, because when they stopped translating it was like, `Oh, I get it now.' "
Learning a Second Language
CMS schools offer three ways:
Students learn vocabulary and grammar during class periods. The most common way to study a foreign language.
Students spend the majority of the day learning in a language that is foreign to them. They aren't directly taught the language; instead, they pick it up as they learn about other subjects. English as a Second Language students automatically get this.
Students of two different native languages study together, eventually spending half the day learning in their language and half in the other language. For the program to work well, the number of native speakers of both languages has to be about even and students need to start immersing at a young age, Collinswood principal Maria Petrea said.