Bush, Putnam Discuss Importance of Immigrant Integration

Article excerpt

Referring to themselves as an "odd couple," Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard University, came together during the Congress of Cities & Exposition to discuss an issue important to them both--immigrant integration in the United States.

"We both believe in this larger, angry debate ... one crucial issue is largely ignored," Putnam said. "We have a lot of immigrants and we are not doing enough to integrate them into American life."

Both men applauded NLC's efforts on the issue, which include a call for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration legislation and the Municipal Action for Immigrant Integration project, which focuses on promoting civic engagement and naturalization among immigrant communities in cities throughout the United States.

"I hope Congress gets its act together and realizes it's important to get this done. We need comprehensive immigration reform," Bush said.

He added later, "The dreams of immigrants become American dreams."

Putnam offered an historical perspective, saying that there has always been turmoil and tension when it comes to integrating immigrant groups into American society.

The process has always been long but has also always been successful, according to Putnam. And while some aspects of integration are happening more rapidly than in the past, the country is doing less for immigrant integration than a generation ago.

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Managing language and the acquisition of English is, and always has been, an important part of the process, he said.

"I think one thing we can all agree on is that language is the key to integration," Putnam said.

Bush agreed, calling for a focus on family literacy, as well as a greater role for civics in schools.

He also cautioned against "lowering the bar" for immigrant children in schools. …