Immigrants Still Feel Welcome in Arlington, Va.

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 15, 2007 1 min read
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I’ve been reading so many stories lately in my morning newspaper, The Washington Post, about people who would like to stop the flow of immigrants—undocumented immigrants in particular— to their communities that I was surprised to see a front-page article in today’s Post with this headline: “Immigrants Haven’t Worn Out The Welcome Mat in Arlington.”

The article tells how educators in Arlington, Va., have really tried to figure out how to best teach immigrant students English and academic content over the years, and how the public schools are doing well. The article also notes that Arlington County received a more gradual influx of immigrants than has occurred in some other counties near the nation’s capital, such as Prince William and Loudoun, where some county leaders have tried to curb illegal immigration.

Here’s an excerpt from the Post article featuring an Arlington County board member that is worth pondering:

The attitude has always been: They're here. They're part of the community. Let's help them succeed," said Chris Zimmerman, a longtime County Board member. He said his children attended schools with classmates from dozens of countries. "They got something from those relationships that you can't teach in a curriculum or show in test scores," he said, "something that will benefit them their entire lives."

For an account of what happened in a community that seemed to have an opposite approach to immigration than that of Arlington, Va., read “English Language Learners Feel Effects of Battle Over Illegal Immigration” from the ELL Outlook newsletter, published by Course Crafters Inc., a company that sells materials to schools for ELLs.

The article tells about the repercussions in schools of the passage of an ordinance by the city of Farmers Branch, Texas, to make it illegal for landlords to rent to undocumented immigrants. The ordinance was struck down by the federal courts. But apparently some immigrants got the message they weren’t welcome in that community. This school year, according to the article, enrollment of English-language learners in the Carrollton Farmers Branch Independent School District, in Texas, which has more than 26,000 students, dropped by 12 percent, or 824 students.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.