Immigration advocates say that an Illinois taskforce has come up with one of the first comprehensive statewide plans to make it easier for legal immigrants and refugees to integrate into mainstream America.
With local governments striving for ways to cope with or control immigration, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed the taskforce to study ways the state could better integrate immigrants into communities.
One of the report's top priorities was to create a statewide campaign to help immigrants learn English -- especially English tied to their vocation. That way, officials say, immigrants can move up the career ladder.
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. Taskforce leader Noo-Wan Lee says many of the services are already offered by social agencies.
Immigrants make up about 12 percent of Illinois's population, and nearly 18 percent of its workforce.
Illinois is believed to be the first state in the nation to shape a policy of widespread integration into communities that have rapidly growing immigrant populations. The goal, Illinois officials say, is to better involve immigrants in the social, civic and economic lives of their communities to the benefit of the immigrant families -- and the communities.