Press Release

Gillibrand, Clarke Announce New Legislation To Help More New Yorkers Learn English

Jul 20, 2009

New York, NY – Local elected
officials, community groups, educators and business owners gathered today
outside of a small business in Elmhurst, Queens, to support new legislation
announced by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke
that will give immigrant communities the English language skills, and the basic
grasp of U.S. history and civics they need to grow and thrive in America for
the long term. New York City is home to 1.5 million people who need English
language instruction, but only a fraction – less than 100,000 – have access to
it. The Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English
Skills Act of 2009
contains a number of measures to provide new
opportunities for New York’s immigrants to thrive in our communities and in our

centuries, families have come to America from every corner of the globe looking
for a better opportunity to pursue their dreams and become Americans – and in
the process, they built our communities, our traditions, our way of life and
our economy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But only a small fraction of immigrants
are getting access to learn the skills needed to integrate successfully and be
part of a growing economy. This legislation provides strong federal investments
needed to help businesses offer English training to their workers, generate the
teachers needed to educate more English language learners, and provide
additional resources to give our immigrant communities a path to becoming
citizens and building a brighter future.”

“As the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, I have a special affinity for this bill
because I understand firsthand the immigrants’ struggle” Congresswoman Clarke
stated.  “I know that having a strong command of the English language is a
necessity if you want to succeed in today’s society. However, many immigrants
are denied the opportunity to learn English due to the limited number of
English Language Learner classes. This bill would increase the number of
English Language Learner classes by providing tax breaks for businesses that
offer English language classes to their employees. Another goal of this bill is
to provide tax breaks to incentivize teaching English to immigrants. Finally,
this bill offers more than 200 million dollars in increased funding from the US
Department of Education, which will be used to assist in expanding access to
English Language Learner classes.”

applaud Senator Gillibrand for her visionary work.  This bill is a sound
business model: It gives companies the incentives to help immigrant workers be
more productive, and it gives new Americans the chance to fully invest in the
job opportunities and experiences of their new home,” said Councilman John
Liu.  “Immigrants, like parents, arrive in cities and towns across
our country in search of a better life for their children and families, but
often their lack of English proficiency shuts the door on good, stable
jobs.  This bill is a great step forward for the immigrant

The Strengthen
and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act of 2009
would provide
the following opportunities for our immigrant communities to thrive in our
economy and become new Americans:

  • Tax Breaks for Businesses that Offer English
    Literacy Programs for Employees
    . Businesses that provide English language
    and financial literacy training for their employees will receive a 20% tax
    credit for those expenses – up to $1,000 per employees;

  • Tax Breaks to Incentivize Educators to Teach English
    to Immigrants
    Teachers who work with immigrants to improve their English skills would receive
    tax breaks up to $750 per year for the first five years of their teaching
    services – and $500 thereafter for each additional year for up to 10 years;

  • Upgrade English Literacy Instruction Classes. To make sure
    immigrants get access to the training and education they need to advance in
    their careers, improve their lives and thrive in the economy, the legislation
    would provide access to a comprehensive educational experience, including
    lessons on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, naturalization
    proceedings, civic participation, as well as U.S. history and government;

  • More than Double Department of Education Grants for
    States to $200 Million
    . To make sure states have the resources they need
    to improve English language classes and expand access to them, the legislation
    would double the amount the Department of Education provides for states from
    less than $70 million this year to $200 million in FY 2010 – with increasing
    amounts the following two fiscal years. The bill would also make sure that the
    majority of the funding would go to states with the greatest size and growth in
    their immigrant population to make sure New York gets its fair share from the

  • Provide Technical Assistance to Faith-Based and Community
    To make sure federal resources are getting where they are needed most, Senator
    Gillibrand’s legislation will offer technical assistance to faith-based and
    community organizations trying to navigate federal grants programs to provide
    English language learning services in their communities;

  • Improve Resources from the Revamped Office of
    Citizenship and New Americans
    . The legislation would require the
    newly revamped Office of Citizenship and New Americans in the Department of
    Homeland Security to enhance its efforts to integrate immigrants into our
    communities, promote instruction and training on citizenship responsibilities,
    and develop better educational materials for immigrants pursuing citizenship;

  • Increase Grants for StateBased New
    American Councils
    . To make sure we have the resources we need to improve
    the way we integrate immigrants, the legislation would increase federal
    investments for state-based New American Councils – groups of local business
    leaders, faith-based and community organization leaders, local elected
    officials, philanthropists and educators dedicated to providing better
    opportunities for our immigrant communities;

  • Raise National Awareness for New Opportunities. The
    legislation would direct Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to
    enhance public awareness of new educational and naturalization opportunities to
    make sure that our immigrant communities know that there is a path to a bright
    future available to them and their families.

applaud Senator Gillibrand’s leadership and vision,” said Ana María Archila,
Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York. “Senator Gillibrand’s bill
rewards the leadership of educators and employers, including thousands of small
business owners, who work hard to expand opportunities for immigrant workers to
learn English and integrate fully into our society. This bill recognizes the
importance of creating opportunities for integration of new Americans into the
social and economic fabric of this country.”

LaGuardia Community College, we see new Americans hungry to learn English so
they can obtain good jobs and get on the path towards citizenship.  In
fact, we have a waiting list of hundreds of people wanting to learn English,”
said Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College. “Senator
Gillibrand’s proposal will help meet that demand and create the next generation
of Americans who can build not only their future, but that of our nation.”

“Senators Gillibrand and Alexander are proposing legislation that will allow
more Americans as well as newcomers to this nation to have greater economic
opportunities through English language courses and by furthering their skills
through adult education programs,” said Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, President of
Hispanic Federation.  “During these difficult economic times, these
programs are sorely needed in order to advance employment options for workers
in this country.”

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proud to support this
important bi-partisan legislation,” said Randel K. Johnson, Senior Vice
President of the Chamber.  “The employer tax credits provided in the
bill will encourage large and small companies alike to offer programs
to teach English to their employees,” he added.  “The breadth of
programs available under the proposed legislation provides a solid array
of competent educational choices for businesses of every size and in every
sector. The Chamber looks forward to a continued public-private
partnership to help the American workforce obtain the tools it needs to

years ago, when I came to NYC, I paid thousands of dollars for English classes,
but I had to stop studying because I couldn’t continue to pay,” said Freddy
Castiblanco, a small business owner in Queens. “Although I have been able to
succeed and open a small business, I also want to put to use all the knowledge
I gained as a trained physician. I am eager to resume my studies in Public
Health, but learning English is the first step. The bill introduced by Senator
Gillibrand will expand opportunities for learning English for my employees as
well as myself.”

“I know that learning the English
language is an important asset to any profession,” said Carmen Ledesma, a small
business owner in Queens. “Currently, I am studying English at Make the Road
New York with one of my employees. We take time out to study English because we
know that learning the language is crucial to the success of the business and a
crucial skill for us to get ahead. Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will make
sure that more people like myself are able to access opportunities for learning
English in our communities.”