Byline: Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Homeland Security Department is initiating an "immigrant integration" program as part of its ongoing post-September 11 efforts to streamline and improve some still-active functions of the defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The program, which will involve an expanded step-by-step orientation, aims to deepen immigrants' understanding of many aspects of U.S. society, from key points in American history to how to vote or participate in a community meeting.
"This effort is historic," said Aflonso Aguilar, the newly appointed chief of citizenship for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency took over several functions of the INS under the Homeland Security Department created in 2002.
"In the history of the United States, the immigration service has never tried to integrate people," Mr. Aguilar said in an interview with The Washington Times last week. The program, which is still in its formative stages, will be promoted through public service announcements during the next six months.
Mr. Aguilar said plans are in place to distribute orientation materials nationwide to ethnic- and religious-based community and nonprofit groups, and to develop a system of connecting the new citizens with U.S. natives, or "hosts."
About 600,000 immigrants became U.S. citizens in 2002. The goal of the integration program is for immigrants to "realize that we're a great country of cultures and religions and languages" and to enhance their involvement in "civic culture," Mr. Aguilar said.
The idea of such a program was appealing to Id A. …