Coalition Letter: Support the Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act

August 27, 2009

Honorable Members of Congress
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned faith based leaders and organizations, join together to urge you to cosponsor the Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act of 2009 (S. 1478), which has been introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Harry Reid (D-NV). Our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion. The Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act addresses the need to invest in our workforce through literacy and civics education and provides impact aid to assist local communities to integrate new populations.

We support this proposal because each day in our congregations, service programs, health-care facilities, and schools we witness the human consequences of the lack of investment in new Americans. As the English language learner (ELL) population continues to grow, it is critical that Congress support English language acquisition and integration. According to the Census Bureau, more than 19% of the population (54.8 million) speaks a language other than English at home. In spite of this fact, there continues to be one- to three-year wait-lists for English literacy education in many areas. This legislation acknowledges that immigrants want to learn English, become citizens, and participate fully in their adopted country, but are frequently unable to do so because the programs they need are underfunded or non-existent.

The Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act provides solutions that will accelerate the integration of ELL individuals by increasing resources for English language acquisition, civics, and basic education programs; providing financial incentives for employers who offer adult education and English language acquisition programs to their employees; and empowering communities to bring together key stakeholders to develop local solutions for integrating newcomers.

Specifically, this legislation would:

  • Create appropriations for integrated English literacy, U.S. history, and civics education programs and invest the necessary resources in these courses;
  • Create tax incentives for employers who offer English language and adult education programs, including financial literacy, to their employees;
  • Create tax incentives for teachers who teach English as a second language and
  • Provide vital technical assistance and support to state and local communities, including community and faith based organizations, seeking strong and productive strategies to respond to newcomers.

We support policies and measures which honor our heritage as a country that welcomes immigrants. We must ensure that we continue to be a nation that embraces newcomers and facilitates their integration into our society as full and equal partners.

We urge you to co-sponsor this legislation. For more information, please contact Elana Broitman (Elana_Broitman @gillibrand.senate.gov) in Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office.

Sincerely,

American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Committee, New York Chapter
Anti-Defamation League
Catholic Charities Allentown Diocese/Bernardine Franciscan Sisters
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, NY
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Church World Service, Immigration and Refugee Program
Colorado Council of Churches
Dominican Sisters of Houston, TX
El Buen Pastor, Iglesia Episcopal, Redwood City, CA
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Irish Apostolate USA
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Chicago, IL
Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest, NJ
Jubilee Center at Saint Matthew/San Mateo Episcopal Church, Auburn, Washington
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
Nacoochee Presbyterian Church Outreach
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Philadelphia Medical Mission Sisters Justice
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sisters of Mercy South Central Community
The Episcopal Church
The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
UJA-Federation of New York
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Jewish Communities/Jewish Federations of North America
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Women of Reform Judaism