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While the focus of this report is on eliminating language barriers for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, any strategy to improve communications with this population must also include English learning and address the shortage of high-quality English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for adults. State-administered ESL programs currently serve only about a million of the estimated 12.4 million LEP adults in the United States who need language instruction. The underfunding of ESL programs means that large numbers of immigrant adults who wish to learn English are unable to enroll in classes or face overcrowded classrooms. For instance, a 2006 national survey of ESL providers found that 57 percent of these programs maintained waiting lists -- ranging from a few weeks to more than three years -- and could not accommodate the high numbers of immigrants interested in learning English. Policy experts and organizations that work with adult English learners have proposed various strategies to increase the availability of high-quality ESL courses, but lack of political support at the national level -- coupled with the current fiscal crisis -- has weakened efforts to help immigrants improve their English skills.
GCIR profiles Making Connections Oakland (MCO), a comprehensive initiative that helps newcomers gain an economic foothold and become full participating members of society. The program was designed to build united neighborhoods and stronger families through strategies that illustrate the cornerstones of GCIR's Immigrant Integration Framework: mutual responsibility, change and benefits; multi-sector involvement; and multi-strategy approaches. Each method has its unique strengths with regard to immigrant integration and is highlighted in this document. As the examples in this report demonstrate, foundations do not need to build an immigrant integration program from scratch. Grantmakers can use resources that already exist in their communities to continue supporting their funding priorities.
This report gives the historical context of U.S. immigration, its vital and unyielding role in shaping the US and how grant makers can help assimilate populations, social change and community building in the future. The toolkit provides grant makers with integration frameworks, case studies, funding examples and opportunities, information resources, strategic planning steps and evaluation platforms for several different arenas. These arenas include: health, education, civic involvement and language.