Regarding Jerry Large’s column “Are we a nation of immigrants?,” I agree that “people need to have their stories told and their existence acknowledged.” So let’s start by recognizing that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees.
Despite their public representations as a threat to national security, refugees are resilient individuals temporarily without financial resources and opportunities. Refugees incur immense losses, including family, language, identity and culture. Yet they arrive in the U.S. determined to succeed. But the lack of English language ability makes securing well-paid jobs, higher education and civic engagement unattainable. Policymakers can help by introducing legislation that changes the focus of refugee resettlement from quick employment to extended language training that will improve refugees’ long-term employment prospects. Some proposed policies include funding for intensive English language classes for at least nine months without forcing refugees to find low-wage jobs and support for ongoing adult education.
Policymakers have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of refugees who are eager to contribute to the richness of their adoptive country. Let’s acknowledge their existence and help them learn English so they too can tell their stories and have a voice in shaping policies that affect their lives.
Someireh Amirfaiz, Bellevue