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Welcoming and NOT Welcoming

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In trying to help English-language learners to feel more welcome, officials of the Phoenix-Talent School District in Phoenix, Ore., are starting with school buses, according to a March 10 article in the Mail Tribune.

At a recent training, 15 bus drivers were told that it's important for them to greet students warmly, learn their names, and keep them engaged by delegating responsibilities. (Sounds like a good policy for interacting with people in general.) A high school student is quoted in the article as saying that some bus drivers often act irritated and she wishes that they were friendlier.

I couldn't help comparing this article about an effort to welcome English-language learners with a story published in The Washington Examiner yesterday that tells how approval of a policy by the Prince William County board of supervisors to crack down on illegal immigration has affected enrollment of English-language learners in the local school district.

Prince William County's school board members say they've lost 630 of the school district's 13,393 English-language learners since county officials approved the crackdown policy on Oct. 17, according to the article.

I'm not trying to imply here that the Prince William County School District itself isn't welcoming English-language learners. It wasn't the school board that approved the policy to combat illegal immigration.

But the two stories show a rift in attitudes of people in this country on whether to go out of one's way to be welcoming or to go out of one's way to do the opposite.

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When the economy is going well, unemployment down, and prices for the basics are within reach, no one complains about immigrations at all - legal or illegal status. During a contentious political season, immigration is a topic that gets a particular base of voters stirred up enough to go out and vote. That particular reality should not go unrecognized.

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