Saturday, March 10, 2012

Migrants with no English become 'jobless sub-class': They must speak it like a native, says British minister

Immigrants who do not learn English become a virtually unemployable ‘sub-class’, a Cabinet minister claimed yesterday. Eric Pickles said it was unacceptable that children were leaving school unable to speak the language ‘like a native’.

No other senior politician has been so outspoken on such a contentious issue. Mr Pickles, who is in charge of community cohesion and integration, said: ‘In terms of wanting people, encouraging people, to be part of British society, they can’t do that unless they have more than an understanding of English.

‘If we don’t get our resident population with an understanding of English, then they become a sub-class that is virtually unemployable or are stuck in a ghetto.

Official figures suggest that around 17 per cent of pupils in state primary schools, and 12 per cent in state secondaries, do not speak English as a first language. The equivalent figures six years ago were 12 per cent and 10 per cent.

Announcing a £10million grant to ‘actively encourage’ the teaching of English, the Communities Secretary said Labour had exacerbated the problem by regarding minority groups as victims. He told parliament’s weekly magazine The House that his aim was ‘real integration, an opportunity for people to meet, to mix, to be engaged in activities beyond their ethnic group’.

Suggesting the last government had made the situation worse with its attitude to minorities, Mr Pickles said: ‘Sometimes they called it a problem, sometimes they called it a challenge.

We need to be a little bit more upfront about it and say Britain is stronger, much stronger, because of British Hindus, British Sikhs, because of British Muslims, because of British Jews.’ Mr Pickles was scathing about Labour’s doctrine of multiculturalism, describing it as ‘the politics of division’.

He insisted public bodies should no longer ‘bend over backwards’ to translate documents into dozens of languages and migrants must be asked to learn English and demonstrate an understanding of the British way of life. Schoolchildren should be educated in a ‘common culture’, promoting a British identity that crosses class, colour or creed, he suggested.

Events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, meanwhile, should be used to celebrate the nation’s traditional culture and to ‘fly the flags of Britain’ with pride.

Mr Pickles said the Government’s integration policy ‘essentially builds on what we have in common, rather than to seek differences’.

Explaining that his own upbringing shaped his views on cohesion, Mr Pickles added: ‘I can remember asking my mum why there was a sign up in a shop that said “no blacks in here” or something to that effect in Bradford, when I was not very old at all. ‘It is quite right that we have introduced laws to outlaw that kind of thing. Nobody should feel frightened in the United Kingdom.

People should feel safe in their beds, they should feel comfortable in their neighbourhoods.

‘These dreadful extremists want to create fear in the minds of the community. We have always been of the view that if the Muslim community of Britain, British Muslims, are seen as the enemy within, then the forces of extremism win. We should be able to unite on the things we have in common, rather than constantly harp on the things that we have that are different.’

Mr Pickles launched a strong defence of the right of Muslim women to wear the veil. ‘We are a tolerant nation and frankly I have absolutely no patience in adopting a kind of French system that is going to remove people from wearing headscarves,’ he said.

Labour questioned Mr Pickles’s choice of language. Hilary Benn, opposition communities spokesman, said: ‘Eric Pickles should be thinking of practical ways to ensure that anyone settling in this country is able to speak English rather than talking about sub-classes and ghettos.’

Tom Brake, Lib Dem backbench home affairs spokesman, said: ‘We need to sing the praises of our immigrant communities rather than consign them to a ghetto. Migrants often make superhuman efforts to learn English and end up creating jobs that benefit British workers.’


Immigration Official: Will not Suspend Program Over Racial Profiling Investigation

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said Thursday that the agency has no plans to suspend a controversial program that gives police authority to detect undocumented immigrants, even in jurisdictions under investigation for racial profiling.

"From our perspective that is a fairly draconian step, and we're very concerned about the public safety implications of not identifying serious offenders who would otherwise be released to the streets," Morton told a House of Representatives subcommittee on homeland security.

ICE has remained staunchly committed to the Secure Communities program, despite opposition from many immigrant-rights groups, lawmakers and law enforcement offices. And even though the agency, partnered with the Department of Justice, is investigating whether local police are engaged in racial profiling, the administration of President Obama plans to move ahead at the same rate to implement the program nationwide.

Secure Communities requires police to share fingerprint data on all arrestees with the federal government, namely the FBI, which transfers the data to ICE in order to detect undocumented immigrants. The program currently exists in 2,385 jurisdictions, including all along the Southwest border, and will be rolled out in all 3,181 nationwide by 2013.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) pressed Morton on problems with the program, including the fact that ICE has yet to report back on analysis meant to help detect racial profiling.

"On the question of have we suspended Secure Communities in any place that is under investigation --," Morton said to Roybal-Allard.

"-- The question is why have you not," she interjected.

The hearing, which was held to discuss Obama's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal for ICE, came on the same day as a letter from 80 civil rights organizations urging the FBI to stop participating in the program.

"[Secure Communities] threatens public safety, encourages racial profiling, undermines community policing, and serves as a deportation dragnet, ensnaring anyone who is booked into police custody," the letter reads.

The program's detractors say it could discourage immigrants from coming to police as witnesses or victims, hurting overall public safety. They also say it could unnecessarily put undocumented immigrants arrested for minor crimes -- even if they were never charged or convicted -- in deportation proceedings.

Racial profiling has already proved a problem in the predecessor to Secure Communities, the 287(g) program that the government is now beginning to phase out. Maricopa County, Ariz., led by infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was stripped of its 287(g) contract amid reports that law enforcement officers racially profiled there.

The roll-out of Secure Communities does not seem likely to be slowed by similar investigations, despite evidence that racial profiling may exist. A recent study from the Warren Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 93 percent of those detained under Secure Communities were Latino, even though Latinos make up 77 percent of the undocumented population.

Some jurisdictions, and even states, have attempted to opt out of Secure Communities but were told they could not -- contradicting earlier statements and documents. Cook County, Ill., announced in September that it would no longer honor requests from ICE to hold undocumented arrestees that it would otherwise release.

Morton said ICE is tracking Cook County's releases and offered to pay any extra cost for detention at the agency's request. "We do not think it's a good idea that hardened felons are released onto the streets of Cook County," he said.

Morton "willfully ignores" problems like racial profiling, said Chris Newman of National Day Labor Organizing Network, which advocates for ending Secure Communities. "To me, among the most pernicious elements of Secure Communities is the extent to which it endorses the view that undocumented immigrants are serious criminals," he said.


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