October 10, 2003

Lieberman Calls for Creation of “American Dream Fund” To Help Immigrants Learn English

Proposal part of comprehensive immigration reform plan

PHOENIX, AZ – Saying that immigrants have played a vital role in our nation’s culture and economy, Joe Lieberman today called for the creation of a new “American Dream Fund” to help immigrants who want to learn English do so more quickly. The fund, a public-private partnership, is one element of a wide-ranging immigration reform plan offered by Lieberman in September.

“For too long, we’ve been caught up in an old argument over ‘English only,’” Lieberman said. “The reality is, immigrants want to learn English. When I’m President, we’ll have the kind of leadership that gives them the opportunity to learn English and achieve the American Dream.”

In a visit with English as a Second Language (ESL) students at J.B. Sutton School, Lieberman said learning English has been the key to success in America, and that most immigrants want to learn it.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough English language learning opportunities and a there is a backlog of students for ESL classes. According to the National Center for ESL Literacy Education, waiting lists for ESL classes in many urban areas are so long that some immigrants have to wait years before finding space. In many rural areas, there are no classes offered at all.

Under Lieberman’s plan, the American Dream Fund will raise money to create new English classes where the need is greatest. It will be chartered by Congress, launched by federal seed money, and grown through private contributions – specifically, by asking successful immigrants to give something back so others can reap the opportunities America promises.

Lieberman added that “we cannot and should not take away immigrants’ culture, their heritage, or their native language. But at the same time, we must give every American the chance to succeed. That’s what English education will do for new immigrants.”

“This isn’t a government program,” Lieberman said. “It’s exercising leadership at the top so that we can move forward together. That’s the kind of leadership that’s missing in the White House today.”

In addition to helping immigrants learn English, Lieberman’s immigration plan would create a new earned legalization status for undocumented immigrants who work for a five years and pay taxes; strengthen family reunification by raising the cap on family visas and other steps; protect the rights of undocumented immigrants by guaranteeing that detainees have bond hearings; and create a work visa program to channel temporary workers where workers are needed most.

Earlier this year, Lieberman was the first Democratic candidate to visit the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Arizona, where he received a firsthand look at the immigration challenges there. He has also expressed his opposition to an Arizona ballot initiative that would deny state services to undocumented immigrants.

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