MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Illinois, the focus today has been on legal immigration. Advocates there say they've come up with the first comprehensive statewide plans to make it easier for legal immigrants and refugees to integrate into mainstream American.
From Chicago, NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY: Early this morning, George Miskew slowly enunciated his words.
Mr. GEORGE MISKEW: Vancouver is in southwestern Canada.
CORLEY: Miskew was teaching teach an English as a second language class to about 10 adult students at Association House, a social service agency on Chicago's northwest side.
Mr. MISKEW: And it's mostly conversational English. We have some grammar, but it's mostly to help people get into the world.
CORLEY: Immigrants make up about 12 percent of Illinois's population and nearly 18 percent of its workforce, so about a year ago, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed what he called a New Americans Executive Order. The task force that followed came up with ways to help immigrants as they worked to create a new life in Illinois.
Mr. JOSH HOYT (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights): Immigrants in Illinois are an asset, and they're an asset in a rapidly changing economy.
CORLEY: Josh Hoyt, with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, was one of the officials releasing the recommendations today. One of the report's most important priorities was to create a statewide campaign to help immigrants learn English, especially English tied to their vocation.
Mr. HOYT: So that the busboy can go to be the master chef, so it's career ladder, and that the best place to do it is where immigrants are working, where they're worshipping, where their kids go to school.
CORLEY: Other recommendations call for establishing welcome centers, where new immigrants and refugees can learn about state services. Another suggests that state subcontractors provide culturally appropriate services. Organizers say the recommendations won't cost the state much to implement. Task force leader Noo-Wan Lee says many of the services are already offered by social agencies.
Mr. NOO-WAN LEE: What we're proposing is to do it in an organized way, recognizing that the number of immigrants at this point in time is probably larger than, let's say, in the past 20 years, and it requires some kind of organization.
CORLEY: Organization between the public and the private sector, which Josh Hoyt says is needed because there's so much controversy over immigration policy.
Mr. HOYT: What's happening is that this country is going to wake up from these wars over national immigration policy with a hangover, and then they're going to say oh my goodness, we've got a whole bunch of new neighbors. What are we going to do?
CORLEY: And Hoyt says that's when other states will start looking to Illinois for practical immigration solutions.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.
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