U.S. Reaches Out To Poor Immigrants In France A gritty, poor suburb of Paris has become a recruitment ground for a U.S. State Department program for international visitors. The program is trying to court second- and third-generation immigrants across Europe in what began as an effort to counter anti-American sentiment abroad.
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U.S. Reaches Out To Poor Immigrants In France

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U.S. Reaches Out To Poor Immigrants In France

U.S. Reaches Out To Poor Immigrants In France

U.S. Reaches Out To Poor Immigrants In France

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92126506/92126488" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A gritty, poor suburb of Paris has become a recruitment ground for a U.S. State Department program for international visitors. The program is trying to court second- and third-generation immigrants across Europe in what began as an effort to counter anti-American sentiment abroad.

ARI SHAPIRO, Host:

Anita Elash has more.

ANITA ELASH: You might expect to find a lot of anti-French, anti-Western sentiment here, the sort that terrorist recruiters try to exploit. But when a phone call from the American embassy in Paris interrupts their meeting, there's a palpable excitement.

U: (Foreign language spoken)

ELASH: The caller is inviting one of the bloggers to the ambassador's residence to meet First Lady Laura Bush.

U: (Foreign language spoken)

ELASH: There's no hesitation. Bushra Zarawall(ph), a 28-year-old student of Moroccan origin, shoots up her hand and volunteers to go.

M: I was pretty surprised to know that it was about the U.S. embassy because why and how are they interested in the suburbs?

ELASH: In France, the embassy's efforts have focused on people like Mohammed Hamdi(ph), a 35-year-old schoolteacher.

M: But you have two here in the (unintelligible) where I grew up.

ELASH: The program has existed for decades but until recently, participants were chosen from the elite. While he was in the United States, Hamdi visited a tough Washington, D.C., neighborhood and a Muslim clinic in L.A. He traveled with a police officer in Jackson, Mississippi, and met Barack Obama. He says now he's better equipped to assess events in the United States.

M: I know, for example, that things are more complicated than we think. When I have a discussion about the American situation I can say it. Me, what I saw, for example, when I was in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, I saw that and I saw that. I saw Islamic people; I saw poor people; I saw the situation of the black people, of the Spanish people.

ELASH: The fact he was invited on the exchange has had a big impact on his fellow bloggers, like Axel Ardes(ph), a 30-year-old French teacher. Ardes says that many young people in the poor suburbs are upset by years of neglect and confrontations with French leaders, so they're more open to help from the American embassy than they are to anything that might come from their own government.

M: The American embassy is different. They could be a mix between the French government and us.

ELASH: For NPR News, I'm Anita Elash in Bondi, France.

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