NJSLOM Annual Conference on Immigration

Photo left to right: Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, Attorney Kerry Higgins,

Dr. Nicholas Montalto, and Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes

Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes was a panelist for the third year in a row at the NJ State League of Municipalities Annual Conference that was held in Atlantic City, NJ earlier this month on Immigration. Mayor Wildes is the Chairman of the Immigration Task Force with the New Jersey League of Municipalities and was appointed to New Jersey Governor Corzine's Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy. Mayor Wildes is also a Partner/Attorney at Wildes & Weinberg, PC--a New York based law firm dedicated solely to the practice of Immigration Law.

 

LEAGUE SESSION:

IMMIGRATION – LANGUAGE ACCESS ON THE LOCAL LEVEL

 

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19

9:00 A.M. – 10:45 A.M.

ROOM 418 – ATLANTIC CITY CONVENTION CENTER

 

MAYOR MICHAEL WILDES INTRODUCTION OF PROGRAM:

 

“GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND WELCOME TO THE SESSION ENTITLED “IMMIGRATION – LANGUAGE ACCESS ON THE LOCAL LEVEL.” I AM MAYOR MICHAEL WILDES OF ENGLEWOOD , CHAIR OF THE LEAGUE'S IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE AND MEMBER OF THE GOVERNOR'S BLUE RIBBON ADVISORY PANEL ON IMMIGRATION POLICY. THIS SESSION WILL DISCUSS THE LINGERING ISSUE OF ENSURING ACCESS TO PUBLIC INFORMATION IN LANGUAGE(S) OTHER THAN ENGLISH. PARTICIPANTS WILL SHARE THEIR VIEWS ON THE IMPACT ON MUNICIPALITIES OF PROVIDING INFORMATION PERTAINING TO MUNICIPAL SERVICES IN MULTIPLE FORMATS AND LANGUAGES. THE DIVERSITY OF THE IMMIGRANT POPULATION AND THE RANGE OF LANGUAGES SPOKEN CALL FOR FURTHER DIALOGUE AND BEG THE QUESTION OF WHOSE LANGUAGE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED. SHOULD IT BE THE LANGUAGE OF THE PREDOMINANT IMMIGRANT POPULATION IN THE MUNICIPALITY? ARE THERE OTHER FEASIBLE APPROACHES TO BE EXPLORED? LANGUAGE ACCESS ON THE LOCAL LEVEL IS CERTAIN TO GENERATE A LIVELY INTERCHANGE OF IDEAS. WE HAVE A LOT TO COVER, SO LET'S BEGIN.”

 

The law itself, by design, does not require an immigrant to speak English until he applies for citizenship. And even then, we certainly do not require a command of the flowery language so often used in public documents. This allows us to maintain a posture encouraging diverse peoples to come forge new lives in our great country. We are a nation which has long preached asylum and refuge for the multitudes. America was, in fact, hewn by immigrants and polished into the economic and cultural gem that she is, still today a melting pot of peoples from scores of countries. To include as many of the population as possible and address the largest percentage of our community's inhabitants feasible, is to live by the doctrine and vision of our forefathers. The reverse, excluding new immigrants, who may be the next generation of Americans, who may possess something great to provide our tremendous nation, is too detrimental to the composition of our homeland for serious consideration.

At the root of most any argument levied against immigrant populations is the belief that they are insular and, instead of adapting to American cultures and ideas, they promulgate their own way of life, separating themselves. What solution is there, then, if not to include them in everything that surrounds them. Indeed, the marvel of our country is that she grows as she learns from others!

Paramount among our tools in this pursuit is communication. Beginning with cave writings and primitive story-telling, developing eventually into spoken tongues and written words, language has long been our unique form of communication. Anytime that a society has needed to express ideas it has developed some form of a lexis. By now, over 120 languages are spoken in the most remote corners of the world, many, here in America . Today, we face a new challenge: integrating our communities with variant languages and diverse cultures, in order to communicate the same idea, and opportunities to all of them.

Addressing this challenge, Englewood has taken many steps toward fully integrating our immigrant population. From our schools to our public library and even our hospital we are proactive in accommodating all prevalent languages (most often Spanish) in much of the programming they offer.

Thus far, the bilingual programs in Englewood include the following:

  • Englewood Health Department – literature concerning vaccinations and pet services.
  • Englewood Hospital and Medical Center 's Marketing Department prints all of their informational literature in Spanish and Korean.
  • The Englewood Public Library teaches English as a Second Language, hosts Spanish-English programming and boasts bilingual signage.
  • At the Bergen Family Center , Englewood 's Board of Education's bilingual program commences with Pre-K and their staff includes bilingual teachers.

Perhaps the most impressive and progressive in our community is the Women's Rights Information Center and the Lincoln Public School . The Center offers a great deal of their programming in English and Spanish. They offer English as a Second Language, domestic violence seminars, bilingual resume writing, tenant's rights information and parents' drug and alcohol classes. In addition to their many other not-for-profit and charitable courses, they always have a bilingual staff available to provide services.

Over at the Lincoln Public School , bicultural integration is a palpable objective. Their dual immersion program in literacy and cognitive skills is a promising and valuable experience for all students growing up in today's society. The program teaches cross-cultural tolerance and offers a unique education where the curriculum follows the Bergen Family Center 's pre-K program and sets the children on a path for understanding; knowledge-seeking; and success in a diverse world.

I myself have visited the school, along with other elected officials, to read to the children. They pegged me a leader who took pride in my own faith - a Jewish mayor and cleverly gave me the bi-cultural book, Jalapeno Bagels , to share with the kids. Encouraging reading at this young age is so vital as a pathway to other arts, cultures and intellectual pursuits. Opening more than one door to our youth, in languages other than English, better enables them to reach for those dreams children dream, making so much more possible and attainable.

The media figured it out years ago: bilingual television shows like “Dora the Explorer,” “Handy Manny” and “Go Diego, Go!” in Spanish and English and “Ni Hao, Kai Lan” (pronounced nee-how-ky-lan) in Chinese and English, begin inundating children early with different languages and customs. Our school systems now are following suit. It is a beautiful thing to hear children walk through the hallways of Lincoln Elementary often speaking to each other in several languages.

The facts on the ground are simple and conclusive: the Latino population is the fastest growing community in America and we may not be far from a heavily bilingual professional world. Why handicap our children by presenting English as singular or superior? America has always been quick to run with trends and keep abreast of the changes around them. If we are to move successfully through these progressive times, we must embrace the opportunity to mix cultures and communities. We are thus charged with the responsibility of giving our children every conceivable advantage before they go out into the real world.

Tackling this issue on a municipal scale is not an easy task. It involves, most problematically, making funds available for translators in public offices and multilingual sign and letter-printing for distribution by our local government. With the ever changing demographics of our state – there is a visible need for us to further disseminate materials in many languages

Recognizing that language and culture are so deeply intertwined that neither can be addressed independently is imperative. Ignoring those differences in culture cripples our ability to work with immigrants and successfully integrate them. It is therefore vital that we dedicate whatever relevant resources we have in order to strive for excellence in this arena.

Any population whose presence is significant should be considered for translation of documents and aid in services. Those serving in public posts should be taught basics about the most common local cultures in order to harbor true understanding between people as they work with each other towards consonant goals. We must meet to find the resources to fund these projects, for few things are as pressing and imperative to the continuity of our community.

___________________________________________________________

 

The early founders of our country never established an exclusive, official language, and I don't believe they intended to do so. They looked upon our nation as a melting pot, which would allow all cultures to feel welcome and evolve. As both a Mayor in New Jersey and an immigration attorney in New York , I take pride in this perspective and experience. I have had the tremendous opportunity to help continue the integration of other cultures which arrived so long ago. The best way to integrate new immigrants is to facilitate access, in their most comfortable language, to information and services.

Making sure that this message is heard by everyone is essential to our public safety. Tragically, during a fire in the summer of 2006, lives were lost as families “stacked” themselves into unfit housing. As landlords or tenants – our residents will be aware of proper regulations regarding our safety standards, further reducing the risk faced by our first responders to an emergency. Our health and safety standards weigh heavily on those individuals who are in need of vaccinations – they will know the proper regulations regarding disease, pet licensing, and other matters important to the health and safety of all our families.

Like my grandparents, those who continue to arrive on our shores take giant leaps of faith. They arrive on U.S. soil expecting a better future and opportunities for their children, enhancing our nation's vitality and success. It shouldn't matter if their arrival was a century ago or in the past few years. Increasing our foreign language communications through technology will help brighten the future they have envisioned and will protect our public interests. Integrating foreign languages into our American culture will be a real benefit to everyone involved. After all, one of the cultural liberties which America affords is the privilege to retain one's language and cultural heritage.

 

With this background to what I believe to be of supreme importance in these issues, I would like to introduce our second speaker…

 

III.    INTRODUCTION OF NICHOLAS MONTALTO

“OUR SECOND SPEAKER IS NICHOLAS MONTALTO, VISITING PROFESSSOR AND PROJECT DIRECTOR, PROGRAM ON IMMIGRATION AND DEMOCRACY, AT RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY . PLEASE WELCOME NICHOLAS MONTALTO.”

 

(NOTE: OFFER WORD OF THANKS AND YOUR OWN REMARKS AT END OF PRESENTATION.)

 

IV.    INTRODUCTION OF JEFFREY RAMSEY

“OUR NEXT SPEAKER IS JEFFREY RAMSEY, COUNCILMAN, WILLINGBORO . LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, JEFFREY RAMSEY.”

 

(NOTE: OFFER WORD OF THANKS AND YOUR OWN REMARKS AT END OF PRESENTATION.)

 

V.    INTRODUCTION OF KERRY HIGGINS

“OUR FINAL SPEAKER THIS MORNING IS KERRY HIGGINS, FREEHOLD BOROUGH ATTORNEY AND MEMBER OF THE LEAGUE'S IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE. PLEASE WELCOME KERRY HIGGINS.”

 

(NOTE: OFFER WORD OF THANKS AND YOUR OWN REMARKS AT END OF PRESENTATION.)

 

VII.    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

“AT THIS TIME WE WILL ENTERTAIN QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR. PLEASE KEEP YOUR QUESTIONS BRIEF AND TO THE POINT. ALSO, PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME, TITLE AND MUNICIPALITY.”

 

 

VIII.    ADJOURNMENT

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE RUN OUT OF TIME. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF THE SPEAKERS FOR TAKING THE TIME FROM THEIR BUSY SCHEDULES TO BE WITH US HERE TODAY AND FOR PROVIDING US WITH THEIR VALUABLE INSIGHT. THANK YOU.”

 

 

 

Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes For Mayor, Assemblyman Arnold Brown, Treasurer

250 Allison Court, Englewood, NJ 07631