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Amazing Lives of New Americans

 

Cullum:Our last panel of the day was Roger Horchow's idea and I think it's going to be simply wonderful.  These are immigrants who have come to the United States who also have succeeded mightily, and they truly embody the American idea.  I hope they will come forward.

 

We have Pia Orrenius, who is the moderator, Prasad Thotakura, Mayor Joe Chow of Addison, Tom Kim of the Lewisville School Board, and Michael Hinojosa who runs the Dallas Independent School District.

I'm only going to tell you this about Pia; I want her to tell you her own story.  She is an immigrant from Sweden; she is an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  She put on the symposium, along with Jim Hollifield of the Tower Center, at the Federal Reserve Bank.  It was an excellent symposium.  Pia's presentation was superb; her written work is extremely impressive.  She has an important story to tell, and so does everybody sitting at this podium.  Pia Orrenius.

 

Orrenius: I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and immigrated to the United States in 1978 with my mother, stepfather and golden retriever. We came at the height of socialism in Sweden. The year we left, my parents recalled paying a marginal tax rate exceeding 100%. You didn't need to earn a lot of money at the time to reach a 100% marginal rate on your income tax.  Those were bad years, particularly for high-income earners in Sweden, many of whom were trying hard to leave. Meanwhile, it seemed the only migration to Sweden was the Finns trying to get out from behind the Soviet Curtain. In reality, Sweden was already taking in asylum seekers from around the world, a humanitarian immigration policy that continues to this day. 

 

I recall the experience of coming to the U.S. as a “dream come true,” particularly for a child who didn't have to deal with the headaches, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the anxieties and costs of a transnational move.

 

I grew up on the north side of Chicago, in Evanston, and over time my fascination with the U.S. only grew.  If you think of Sweden, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a very homogeneous society. Coming to the United States, I saw the heterogeneity, the different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds of people. It was new and amazing. Another big benefit was the weather. My mother reminded me often how much better the weather was in Chicago than in Stockholm. You may laugh, but remember, everything really is relative.

I went to the University of Illinois to begin my path toward a career in economics and later to UCLA for graduate school.  For me, economics was the perfect tool because I could use it to explain my life: why we left Sweden, a fundamentally socialist economy at the time, and why we came to American; for greater opportunity. As I could see around me, many others had come for the same reasons, although perhaps from different backgrounds.  My doctoral dissertation discussed migration from Mexico, the single largest source of immigration to the United States.

I arrived at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas during the height of the “new economy” boom in 1999.  The Dallas Fed sought an immigration expert, and back then, there were relatively few economists working in the field. In 2004, I was asked to serve on the President's Council of Economic Advisors in Washington, D.C. Once the elections were over and President Bush had won another term, we got busy in the White House working on an immigration overhaul.

 

This was a chance to apply what I had learned in school about migration drivers, at the Fed about economic growth, and in my personal life about the hopes and aspirations of immigrants. A large piece of the President’s proposal was a temporary worker program. It made sense, particularly in the Mexican case.

 

First on our panel is Mayor Chow.  You've had so much success in the U.S.  Could you tell us a little bit about your story?

 

Chow: Thank you very much, Pia. Before I go further, I want to thank Lee Cullum for inviting me here, and I also want to make two corrections to the bio you have in your hand: I graduated from Southeastern Oklahoma State University instead of Southwestern,  and I was remarried in March of this year, so no longer my fiancée; she is my wife.

 

I was born and raised in a very ordinary, middle income, military family; both of my parents are Chinese Air Force officers.  I came into the United States in 1979.  I remember 1979 was the year the United States recognized China, and it had created a big instability in Taiwan.  Many people wanted to go abroad, but the reason I came abroad was for further study.

People ask me why I choose Southeastern Oklahoma State; it is not a well known university.  But I can tell you, my mom had her life savings and she gave me her savings passbook account and said, “Joe, you withdraw as much as you need.”  I didn't want to withdraw a lot, so I pick the least expensive university, which was Southeastern Oklahoma State.

 

I had to line up in front of the embassy in Taipei at 6:00 p.m. the day before for the interview for my visa, which was at 9:00am the next morning.  We just sat there all night until the next morning.

 

I flew into DFW Airport.  I knew no one.  It was just 5:30 in the morning and I looked around and thought, where should I go? I need to go to Oklahoma.  I waited until after 7:00 then I took a shuttle to the Greyhound Bus Station, right next to McDonald's and the Federal Building.  I bought a ticket, waited for an hour, and I took the Greyhound all the way to Durant, Oklahoma - if you know this little town.  On the road, I said to myself, Oh, vacant land, this is Texas.

 

I got to the depot with one big luggage and one guitar, since I like to play a little guitar, and then I asked a man, “Mister, can you find a cab for me?”  I waited for 30 minutes.  Finally the cab showed up, I put everything in and it was only two street turns to the university.  I probably could have walked over. The cab ride was like a $1.55, I remember.  And I said, “Oh, that's expensive, if you calculate it by 42.” Back then $1 U.S. dollar was equal to $42 Taiwan dollars.

So that's how I started.  After I graduated in December of 1980, I started to work waiting on tables in the restaurants and then became manager, general manager. I worked my way up; I worked very hard.  And back then I set one goal in my mind: I wanted to have my own restaurant.  So I did.  In 1986, I opened up my own in Addison.

 

In 1998, I had been out of college for 17 years already and I need to do something else.  Being a restaurant owner was just not good enough.  So I started to learn insurance.  I started with life and health insurance, security license, and then later I learned about homeowner insurance, car insurance.  You know why I picked insurance?  Because insurance is involved in your daily life; you do need it.  You need homeowner’s insurance if you have a home; if you rent an apartment, you need renter's insurance; you have car insurance, life insurance, health insurance.  So insurance basically is the most important thing in your life.

 

I felt like that wasn’t enough, so I got into real estate; I got my Realtor's license.  You know why?  If you sell homeowner's insurance, you should also know about a home. For most people, a home normally is your number one investment.

 

Since I got involved with restaurants, insurance, and real estate, I knew more people and I learned more English; I gained more knowledge.  I had seen so many Asian-Americans having problems.  Some of them didn’t speak English at all; some people spoke only broken English.  Sometimes I've got a little comment to myself too.  I thought it was time to give back to the community, to help the people who need help.

 

In 2001 I moved from Dallas to Addison, established my one-year residency, then I told my good friends, a city manager and a former mayor, I said, “I'm interested in running for city council.”  The they both told me, “Joe, don't feel bad, but you never got involved in Citizens Academy which is our leadership program, you never served any P&Z voluntary committees, and you will run against incumbents, you have no chance at all.”  I said, “No, it's not like that.  I'm a businessman, even small businessman.”

 

So I started to learn.  I said, “One thing I know is if you want to get elected, you've got to have more votes.”  But most people only vote for incumbents, so what can you do?  You need to add more votes; you need to bring in more new votes.  By doing what?  Knock on every door, two to three times.  Addison is not a big city; we have 1,800 houses.  So I knocked on every door two or three times.

 

I learned all the issues; people complained about Addison Airport, complained about the need for streetlights, but not in front of their homes; all kinds of issues. I learned so I could try to help them solve those issues.  I got the highest votes; I shocked every one of them.  Then in 2004, the second term reelection, I had 75% of voters. I still knocked on every door, two or three times, to build up my confidence to run for mayor.

 

In 2005 I decide to run for mayor.  I had my council colleague run against me.  He had more experience.  He was 67 years old; I was only 49.  But I thought, no, I have more experience because since I was 25, I worked more than 16 hours a days, so 25 years times two is 50, 50 plus 24…I'm 74 years old in experience.

So of course, I knock on every door, this time four or five times, five or six times; I wore out three pair of shoes.  I won - I won by 18 percent.  For over 18 years Addison never had an opposed mayor election.  This was the first time. I became the second Asian-American to be mayor in the state of Texas, in which there are 1,340 cities.  The first one was in San Marcos and he served one term, and then me. But in North Texas, I'm the only one.

 

Orrenius: I would also like to introduce Dr. Michael Hinojosa, who is the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.

 

Hinojosa: Thank you very much.  I'm honored to be here. My story started in 1957.  My parents lived in Mexico and my father was an Assembly of God minister. He moved us all over Mexico, from Tampico to Padilla to Ciudad Victoria, and he kept moving closer to the border.  I was the eighth of ten children in my family; I was the last one born in Mexico.  My parents had a formal third grade education; my father self-taught himself the Bible and then went to seminary without a formal education.  He had a vision of bringing his family to the greatest country in the world so that his children could get an education.  And he was very blessed by the Lord to be given a church in Lubbock, Texas.

 

We moved to Lubbock in 1959, and my story started there.  When I went to first grade, the teacher saw my name, which is Eriu Misael Hinojosa de Rodriguez Valez Salazar Gomez Gutierrez, and in 1962 Ms. Jones had a beehive haircut and she couldn't say anything of those things. So she gave me the name of Mitchell because Misael sounded like Mitchell. So in first grade I was Mitchell.

 

We lived in Lubbock for about six years and then my dad got a church in Dallas.  He got a church in west Dallas and we moved to Big D when I was in second grade.  When I got there, there were already two Mitchells in the class, so I became Michael.  But when I was in second grade, when we moved to Dallas, they had just shot the president of the United States, and my immigrant parents piled all us kids - by then there were ten of us - in a station wagon and we drove.

 

When you try to convince your kids that you're moving; it's to a better place, the grass is always greener.  My dad told us we were going to move to a two-story house.  Well, it was two stories all right, but it wasn't a house.  It was the West Dallas Housing Projects.  The second week we were there, my mom asked, “Where's your dad going, Misael?”  And I said, “Dad is downstairs.”  She said, “Well, someone stole our station wagon,” and that was our welcome to Big D.

But my father persevered.  He taught us to work hard.  I'm one of the least intelligent people in my family.  We have a family reunion every year either on my father's birthday or on Thanksgiving, and I hardly ever get to talk.  Any of you know my sisters?  There are five of them.  I never get a word in edgewise, and they're all very intelligent.

 

My father then started to build a church off of Fort Worth Avenue, between West Dallas and Oak Cliff, and he was able to get us a rent house in Oak Cliff. I grew up in Oak Cliff.  I went to Sunset High School; I went to Griner; I went to several schools.  In fact, in 1971, I was a student when the federal government desegregated the Dallas schools, and I had to go from one school to the other in August without knowing about it, just having to show up and get on a bus and go to a new school.  So I was a product of that environment.

 

I graduated from Sunset High School, was very blessed to have some great teachers in Dallas.  I went to Texas Tech, got my bachelor's degree, came right back to Dallas and became a teacher in Oak Cliff.  I taught for eight years at Stockard Middle School and Adamson High School.  I wanted to be a teacher and a coach all my life, but people kept pushing me into other things.

 

While I was at Adamson High School, I got my master's at the University of North Texas, and then people pushed me into administration, and they said, “You need to apply for a job as an administrator.”  I said, “No, I want to be a teacher.  They won't hire me as an administrator, I promise you.  I'm too young and I'm an immigrant and they might ask me for my green card and the only green card I've got is an American Express card, so that's not going to work.”

 

But they asked me to apply, but I couldn't get any administrative job in Dallas so I went to Grand Prairie.  I was the first Hispanic administrator in Grand Prairie.  I went from assistant principal to assistant superintendent in seven years, and then I had a first chance to be a superintendent in Fabens, Texas, which is eight miles from the Mexican border; 18 miles east of El Paso.  That was the greatest experience for me because I got back in touch with my roots, and I saw very poor children doing great things academically.  Then I realized that a superintendent could impact the academic performance of students.

 

Then I worked for the state.  I was the executive director of Region 19 Education Service Center for several years, and then I got a superintendency in the Austin area.  I was superintendent at Hays Consolidated between Austin and San Marcos.  I went to the University of Texas at Austin and got my doctorate.  And then I was selected as superintendent for Spring ISD and then I had a chance to come back home.

 

And I'm not running for any office, but in case I ever do, I taught at A&M, so I've been to every university and I've been all over the state.

 

But now I'm back home and I've been the superintendent in Dallas for 18 months. People ask me what's the greatest accomplishment so far as superintendent of Dallas, and I say the greatest accomplishment is that I am still in Dallas.  We've had seven superintendents in the last ten years, and my good friend, Dr. Moses, chewed up four of those years.  But I have a great board; the board has been the least of my problems.

 

But if you take it all the way back, it was the vision that my father had to bring us to the greatest country in the world where we can get the greatest education, and that benefitted my family.  I've got a sister who is an executive with SBC and retired a millionaire because she was able to invest wisely.  I have a sister who was an executive for Baylor Hospital.  I have two brothers that owned a barber shop in Highland Park and sold it.  If you go to Highland Park - they were making a lot of money.  Sometimes they were making more money than I was.  And they're very successful; all of my brothers and sisters were very successful.  But we had the opportunity to have a great education in this country, so I'll stop there and then we'll come back with some of the questions that might be pertinent.

 

Orrenius: Next I would like to introduce Mr. Tom Kim, who is a trustee of the Lewisville Independent School District. 

 

Kim: Thank you for the invitation.  I definitely appreciate being here with this distinguished panel.  I almost didn't make it here.  I was out in the lobby, and of course, I was watching the Army-Navy game and someone had to drag me out of the bar.

 

I have a little different immigration story.  My dad was the oldest out of eight children and he always worked hard at whatever he did.  I was born in Taegu, South Korea, in 1969, and the story takes place actually before my birth.  In 1962, my dad was in the Korean Army and worked for an American colonel as a gotuso [phonetic] which was kind of a liaison officer between the American and Korean armies.  The American colonel, Colonel Dick Nisper, worked with him for several years, and when my father got out of the Korean Army, decided to hire him as a civilian liaison officer between the American and Korean armies.

 

During those nine years, they developed a strong bond. When the Vietnam War was over and Colonel Nisper retired and came back to America, he became CEO of Alfred's Refrigerated Warehouse, which is actually a historical landmark here in south Dallas.  He flew back to Korea and asked my dad to come to America and work for him.  So in 1971-72, my dad came to America to work for the CEO of Alfred's Refrigerated Warehouse, and a few months afterwards, the whole family came over to the United States and made our home in Big D also.  That story right there speaks highly of what my dad did. He embellished what I saw in his life, which was hard work, hard work, hard work and dedication to his family.

 

How many people have heard of Lewisville?  The home of the Farmers, right?  I get harassed for that.  I met my wife in Maryland and she still doesn't know what a farmer is.  I did my entire schooling in Lewisville Independent School District; I went K through 12 there, and I was blessed to have had some remarkable, remarkable teachers, and part of this is a credit to what Dr. Hinojosa and other administrators and teachers have done in the state of Texas.

 

I graduated number 13 out of a thousand in 1987, and was blessed to receive a nomination and appointment to the United States Naval Academy in 1987. I had never been on a plane before, never been away from my family, but in July 1987 I flew up to the Naval Academy to get yelled at.

 

My four years there at the Naval Academy was remarkable.  I graduated in 1991.  I did service tours in the Persian Gulf, the first on the USS Tuscaloosa, and then my second tour was with the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 8 in the Persian Gulf.  We patrolled the no-fly zone in Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch.  And then, consequently, after that, my last tour was at Naval Station North Island.  With Naval Station North Island, if you can think about it, on a daily basis our galleys served around 5,000 men and women.  That's a feat in itself, and my wife always asks me why I tell her to not keep food for more than 24 hours.  Well, if you get 5,000 people sick, you're probably not in your job for very long.

I want to say I'm really thankful for the men and women who serve in today's military.  It's a whole lot different than when I was there, and we should all be thankful for the freedom that we have today.

 

My immigration story is a little bit different, I didn't come over here as an older adult; I came over here as a baby.  It wasn't really my choice, but I'm very thankful and blessed for that. Through the years, as I was growing up, I knew I was a little bit different,  growing up in Lewisville being one of the only Korean family at the time.  You can probably count on one hand how many Asian families that lived in Lewisville at that time.  And so I knew I was a little bit different, but I never told myself I was different.  The only thing I told myself was that I was going to somehow repay the blessings that we received because of my parents immigrating over here.

 

I started thinking about volunteerism, what I could do to pay back the country that offered me so much, and the first thing I thought of was, of course, joining the military and that's why I went to the Naval Academy.  The military has always, always been a big part of my life, and even when I got out of the military in 1996, I decided to see how I could touch young people.

 

I became the Blue and Gold Officer for the Lewisville Independent School District for two schools: Flower Mound High School and Marcus High School. Basically what that meant was that  I was the eyes and the ears of the admissions department for the Naval Academy and I interview the candidates that were applying for the school.  I basically informed them, met with their parents, interviewed them and I wrote up a brief that I send back to the Naval Academy.  That gives me so much pride to see all the young men and women that are dedicated to their country and the parents that support them.

 

The joys of my life - my wife couldn't be here; she's taking care of my youngest - my wife June and I have two boys, Alex and Tyler.  They both go to school in the Lewisville Independent School District.  We're very, very active in our community.  She's part of the PTA, she volunteers at church, and we have been very blessed to be able to be a part of our community.

I've been on the school board for nine years, this is the end of my third term; I'll be up for election next year.  If anybody lives in Lewisville Independent School District, don't forget to vote for me next year. I'm the vice president, currently serving my third term, and with the nine years of experience I've seen, I have made it a priority to focus on the kids and the dedication of what we can do to support our kids because they're our future.  They are the future of the United States, and we spend many hours trying to give direction and guidance to our district.  We encompass 13 cities.  We don't have as big a student population as Dr. Hinojosa. We have 50,000 or so; roughly about a third of his students.  Being a part of the school board was a way that I could give back to the community where I grew up, and I just get so much gratification for doing this.

 

People ask me how much we get paid because we spend a lot of hours outside of our normal work. Believe it or not, school board members in Florida actually get around $27,000, but we get paid a big goose egg. The gratification of seeing the children and seeing the success of the children is enough for me.

 

Orrenius: And the last of our panelists, I would like to introduce Mr. Prasad Thotakura, who is the Texas state coordinator of the Indian-American Friendship Council.

 

Thotakura: It is a great honor and a special privilege to be here among this distinguished panel and audience.  I really thank you, Lee Cullum for inviting me to this meeting.

 

I want to share my story about why and how I came to be here.  First of all, I came to the USA 20 years ago with my wife on an immigration visa. My wife and I used work as lecturers in colleges in India. We had a dream of furthering our education and opportunities. In my opinion, there's no other country on this earth than USA to realize that dream.

 

But leaving the motherland is not that easy because of the affection and bonds that we develop among families and friends.  But we made that choice of migration for the betterment of our next generation - our kids. We left our three-month-old son and a four-year-old daughter with my parents and came to the USA. We decided to complete our education, get good jobs and bring our kids to this country when we had settled down in our lives.

 

We worked very hard, graduated with MBA-MIS and got jobs. I started with the Mobil Oil Corporation and my wife used to work as a chemist with one of the pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey.  Almost 15 years ago, we moved to Dallas, Texas.

 

We had some challenges in not only assimilating ourselves in this new mainstream, but getting our kids adapted to this country as well. It is not that easy. When my daughter came to this country, she was in sixth grade.  She used to come home almost every day crying, not wanting to go back to school because other kids were laughing at her funny accent, funny hair and funny dress.  We used to console and encourage her to go back to school, to try and understand whatever they were commenting and beat them academically. That's exactly what she did.

 

 When she got to the ninth/tenth grades, her teachers used to show her essays to the other students as the best model essays. She used to get all "A” grades. It takes a lot of courage and stamina to reach that stage.  I'm very proud to say after graduating from high school, she got direct admission into medical school and graduated with a medical degree. Just recently, she has completed her residency and is currently doing her fellowship in oncology right here in Baylor Hospital in Dallas.

 

My son has the same story; he used to be very bright in Math and Science, but very poor in English.  He went the same route as his sister did; he worked very hard and got direct medical admission at Texas Tech in Lubbock.

 

What I meant to say is - coming to this country, working hard and reaching your goals is the only way to succeed in this country.  First of all, one needs to understand the culture of this country and be good law-abiding citizens. The opportunities are abundant and unlimited.  So that is my story so far. I have more stories to tell, how our fellow Indian-Americans are doing in this country, why they are so successful.  I will give you some secrets recipes for success later on. Thank you.

 

Orrenius: Mayor Chow, obviously you've had success in the U.S. and we really enjoyed hearing your story.  Much of it is due to your own tenacity and abilities.  In statistics, we would call you an outlier because you are very far from the average.  I'd like to know what you think it is about the United States that makes immigrant success more likely, perhaps, than in other countries like in Western Europe and so forth.  What do you think are the unique factors that help immigrants achieve a better life?

 

Chow: The United States is a melting pot.  I believe the audience is full of immigrants; it just depends on how long ago.  That has made this country a greater country than any other country.  As long as you're willing to work, work hard, set a goal, then your dream will come true.  It happened to other panelists that we have heard from today. I always encourage youngsters to not ask focus on how much you get paid, but on how much you can accomplish for the community.

 

Orrenius: There was some interesting legislation passed recently in your neighboring town of Farmers Branch.  Could you give us a summary of some of the laws that they passed that refer to immigrants, and if in the city of Addison, you've considered any similar laws?

 

Chow: It has been a very touchy issue.  Whether you say yes or no, it is going to create some unhappiness among the citizens.  As mayor, I would really hate to see us spend a lot of the taxpayers' money on potential legal battles over the next five years; probably costing at least $500,000.  That's my number one concern, that's my duty; we want to spend the taxpayers' money frugally and steer the money wisely, number one.

 

Number two, I have full confidence with the new Congress coming in and I know they will work together with President Bush and will come up with a new program, as Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn just mentioned.  I am really for the guest worker program.  I am thinking about the jobs, not because we need to pay for more.  The thing is, even though you pay for more jobs, nobody really likes to do those jobs.  How often do you see that roofers are local people; how often you see a local citizen as the dishwasher or farm worker?  The majority of them come from South and Central America.

 

Orrenius: For those of you who haven't followed the developments in Farmers Branch, they passed three laws that affect immigrants and particularly illegal immigrants. I suppose the most controversial of those is the one that would forbid apartment owners to rent to illegal immigrants or have to check people's documents before they rent to them. 

 

Turning to you, Dr. Hinojosa, let's talk a little bit about education.  I was amazed the other day when I read that over 50% of school children in California are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. It's a much lower share in Texas, but I'd like you to tell us a little bit about the immigrant population in the DISD schools; how well do they do?

 

Hinojosa: Thank you for the question.  You'll be surprised with the response.  Believe it or not, in Dallas ISD we have 50,000 immigrant children, students of limited English proficiency.  That's the size of Lewisville, that's the size of Plano, that's the size of Garland.  We have 160,000 students, and then you take the students that have exited the Limited English Proficient program, and that's another 30,000.  So 80,000 of the students in the Dallas Independent School District are either limited English proficient or have been through the LEP program.

 

How do they do?  Well, let me also give you a couple of other statistics that will surprise you.  We have more LEP students than El Paso, San Antonio, Brownsville, or any border city.  In fact, El Paso has a higher percentage of white students than Dallas ISD.  Dallas ISD has 5% white students, we have 25% African-American students and 67% Hispanic students, and half of those Hispanic students are LEP children.

 

And here's the big fallacy.  You notice that two of the four of us up here on the panel have less of an accent.  In fact, my accent is more West Texas because I grew up in Lubbock for six years, so I've still got that West Texas twang.  But language acquisition is so critical at the early stages.  Some of us came to this country when we were very young.  You develop your ability to speak clearly early in your childhood development.  People that come in at an older age, my brothers and sisters, you line us up and you would say you're not from the same family.  But I was fortunate because I was able to come to this country when I was very young.

 

And the other thing that needs to be very clear.  Have you heard our backgrounds?  Three of the four of us, our parents had very professional backgrounds:  two were in the military in foreign countries; one was already a professor in his home country.  My parents had a third grade education.  So when people are not even literate in their own language, how can you expect them to become literate in a second language?

 

And that's the whole premise behind bilingual education.  The goal of bilingual education is to become literate in English.  But there is new research out and there's a longitudinal study that shows over a ten-year period - there's 3.5 million students in this study, including 250,000 in Texas - that if you have a dual language program that the students will flourish because you have to become fluent in a language, and if it's easier to become fluent in your native language first, then it's much easier to transfer to a second language.

 

That's where we've gotten it all wrong.  Last year we had a thousand exceptions with the Texas Education Agency where we were providing no services to students, and the research is abundantly clear that all students perform well at third grade level, regardless of which program you do, even if it's no program, but they pay the price down the road because they don't learn an academic language, either one.  If no services are provided, their performance goes down to the 20th percentile in reading.  If we pull out English as a second language, it goes down to about 30th percentile.  Then you go across with the typical bilingual program and it's still less than 50th percentile.

 

But there is new research out on dual languages. There are two ways to teach in dual languages.  One way is one group.  That means students learn English and Spanish simultaneously and they're above the 50th percentile.  Two way is where you take students who are non-Spanish speakers and you teach them Spanish - whether they're African-American or whether they're Anglo, or believe it or not, we have a lot of second, third and fourth generation Hispanic children who don't speak Spanish - if you take people that don't and teach them and you have two groups, there's a bunch of research that shows they even perform higher in the long run.

 

In Dallas we're very optimistic about where we're going and 85% of children in Dallas ISD are economically disadvantaged - that means they live at the poverty level.  But if you take Dallas County, it's not just a Dallas phenomenon; if you take Dallas County, there are only two districts, Highland Park and Coppell, that have over 50% white students, and Irving ISD has the same percentage of limited English proficient students as Dallas.  When people leave the border, they don't stop, they go where the jobs are, and we have a lot of LEP students in the northern part of Dallas because that's where the jobs are.

 

So that makes our job more difficult, but I'm not going to ever make an excuse because I don't want to be an anomaly; I don't want to be an exception that I was one that was born on a dirt floor in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico and I made it, because I don't want to be the exception.  I want us to make sure that all of our kids make it.  You people love Dallas; I love Dallas.  For Dallas to be prosperous, we can't build a wall around certain parts of Dallas.  We all have to be successful and it's in your best interest if we're successful.  And I have every confidence, with the research that we have and the professional development and the talent that we have, that we'll be able to overcome the challenges.

 

That's why I said earlier the best thing that ever happened to me was going to El Paso because I got back in touch with my roots and I saw poor children doing great things academically, not just on the TAKS test.  The TAKS test is the floor.  Rigorous academic instruction, as these gentlemen have proven, from the Naval Academy, from the other institutions, that's what will make you successful and that's what will get you out of college.

 

That's my biggest chore in Dallas.  And I'm not against the state accountability test.  I'm not against No Child Left Behind, but we have succumbed to the lowest possible element instead of shooting for the highest possible rigor that we can have.

 

Orrenius: Mr. Kim, you deal with many of the same issues.  By now, immigration has come even to Lewisville.  Could you explain the issues that you guys are dealing with regard to immigrant children?

 

Kim: Yes.  As Dr. Hinojosa said, it's starting to migrate north where the jobs are, and so for Lewisville Independent School District, we've turned into a more diverse school district.  I mentioned earlier, we encompass 13 cities, the biggest, of course, including Lewisville and Flower Mound, The Colony, we have parts of Plano, Coppell, even parts of Frisco in the Lewisville Independent School District.  It's amazing how many different cities that we have to cater to, so it just makes it a little bit tougher when we talk about policies.

 

With the immigration, we have to deal with the diversity, and it makes it tough because you have a section of our cities that are very, very affluent.  If anybody is familiar with Flower Mound, it is a very affluent neighborhood.  As a board member and as an administrator - Dr. Roy is our superintendent - we have to deal with that type of mind-set.

 

One of the good things about Lewisville, the board members are still able to run as an at-large board member which means we're not geared towards one little area of our city, we run at large, we run in all 13 cities.  That helps us say we're going to take all the kids up to that high standard that Dr. Hinojosa talked about.  We're not going to just take the Flower Mound kids because we know they can do it; we're going to take the Lewisville kids with us and we're going to raise that standard, as he said.  We're not going to expect Flower Mound and Highland Village to do this and we expect Lewisville to do this.  We're not going to do that.  Everybody is going to be taken to the same bar.

 

Now, there are things that we've done in our school district to help us to do that.  The first thing we did was we created a group of administrators that were located in the lower economically disadvantaged areas that actually worked with kids, tutored them, helped them out, found out what we could do better, and encouraged them to succeed.  Lots of times these kids don't have parents at home at six o'clock at night.  So our administrators developed programs to do that.

 

I'm also a board member of Communities in Schools of North Texas.  If you haven't heard of that organization, it's a non-profit organization that works with at-risk students, and they're in three or four of our at-risk schools.  And what they do is they have a counselor on campus and they work programs so after 3:30, the kids aren't out on the streets, they're at a program at our schools.

 

So the diversity has come up north to where we live, but we're not making any excuses either. The standards are raised for everybody, and we're going to bring everybody up to that level.

I mentioned Lewisville High School.  I graduated from Lewisville High School and I was probably one of three Asians in Lewisville High School.  Now if you're Caucasian, you're the minority in Lewisville High School.

 

Well, we've had some success, but we've also had trouble in the ninth to tenth grade campus. What we did several years ago was decided to give the freshmen another year to mature, another year away from the seniors and juniors and we built a brand new school in Lewisville and we only made it a ninth grade campus.  What we did was we celebrated that new school with the city.  The city was invited; all the parents were invited.  They helped decorate it, theme it and everything like that, and so we instilled some pride into that.  And even though Lewisville is a lower economically disadvantaged area, Lewisville High School North now is an exemplary campus.  That's the highest rating that you can get.  And they were barely recognized and acceptable before.

 

So that's some of the success stories; that's some of the things that we've had to do with the migration north.

 

Orrenius: Mr. Thotakura, I was reading your biography and seeing how active you are in the Indian-American community and how you worked to preserve your language from the region of India from which you're from, Telugu.  A good question for you would be about this idea that the problem with immigration, or the thing that comes up a lot, is that people born here sometimes feel that immigrants don't assimilate, that they don't learn our language, they don't learn our customs.  How would you address this issue?  Have you personally dealt with this issue of allegiances of identity and have your children done so?  What is the appropriate balance for us, as immigrants, in being honest and paying respect to our roots, but at the same time, assimilating and becoming Americans?

 

Thotakura: Actually, that was the biggest challenge for our children while they were growing up here because at home we wanted them to learn our language, follow our customs and eat our home cooked food. But when they went out, they saw entirely different things. All their friends did different things other than what mom and dad told them at home. Those kids got more freedom to do whatever they wanted, even come home late after midnights. On the other hand, our kids needed to be home before dark, go to the Temple on weekends, learn Kuchipudi dance (a form of dance) and participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities which are directly related to their education.

 

 But the biggest challenge for them was balancing two cultures – no to be alienated from the mainstream and at the same time keep up their own identity; not lose integrity and honesty. In any culture, there are good and bad things, so we need to take good things from the society.

For example, if I tell my son or daughter that as Hindus we should not eat beef, they grow up like that and they can understand our way of life. In the beginning it may be little hard for them to tell their friends that they won’t eat beef, but they will get used to it as time passes by.

 

Male Speaker:  I want to say that I think this session has been inspiring.  I thank you very much for what you've had to say and you've inspired me to ask you each for your opinion as to whether or not English should be made the official language of this country.

 

Thotakura: Definitely English must be the official language of this country. In India, though there are several official languages and hundreds of dialects. The national language is only one, that is Hindi. Unfortunately, all Indians can’t speak this language and almost every state has its own language. If you visit different states in India you feel you are visiting different countries, as every state has a different language, food habits and dress code.

 

I can’t imagine not having English as our primary language in the USA. When people migrate to this country, it is their responsibility to learn English and at the same time to adapt to this culture and customs. Even though we come from different ethnic backgrounds, once we land here, we need to respect the laws of the land and become law-abiding citizens.

 

Chow: I would echo this.  English should be the primary, official language for everybody coming into the country.  We do need to get used to the customs, culture and language itself.  I think a lot of discrimination is actually not discrimination, but miscommunication and misunderstanding.

 

I can give you one example.  Several years back, my older sister's son came to study at Newman Smith. The school had so many students that they spread lunch time out from 10:30am all the way to 1:30pm. After he finished his lunch, at about 11:00am, he didn't know he needed to get a pass to go to his locker, so he just went to his locker without getting a permit from his teacher. He had no prior knowledge at all.

 

He went to his locker and the school police came. They were very friendly and nice and ask him for his pass. You know, he really didn’t know what pass meant.  Even though for you, for me, we know. But he didn’t. They asked, “You don't know pass? P-A-S-S, you don't know that?”  He just stood there smiling and the school policeman smiled back to him for a while.  And that's all he could do because he didn’t know.  The school policeman thought he was joking, that he was being disrespectful and not answering. So he took him to the assistant principal.  The principal, without asking, just immediately scolded him, but the boy still didn’t understand why he was being scolded. 

 

So that's the reason language is important.  I think all the school systems need to have a better program to assist the new immigrated student to avoid those misunderstanding.

 

Hinojosa: I think that English is the language of commerce.  English is non-negotiable.  English is spoken all over the world, so it's non-negotiable.  But when you use the term "official language," that means other languages cannot be used, and I don't subscribe to that.  I'm going to do it different from some of the people that have spoken to you today and people have talked about the melting pot.  If you subscribe truly to the melting pot theory,  that means everybody gives up what they have and become what this is.

 

For example, the gentleman who spoke about his religion and being Hindu and what they believe…so are we going to tell people they have to give that up?  I subscribe to the salad bowl theory.  A salad bowl has the same common core and then you add a little tomato and it makes it richer, and you add a little onion and that makes it richer.  You add a little bacon, oh, my goodness, so you add all these things and it makes it richer.  That's an additive; that's an abundance mentality rather than a deficit mentality.

 

Let me tell you my biggest challenge on this issue.  I went to schools on the first day with my son because he was going to enroll in school and I was told Hispanic parents don't show up to school.  Well, I went to Franklin Middle School and it's 55% Hispanic students, 30% African-American students, 15% white students, and in the auditorium were 800 Hispanic parents,  there were very few other parents.  And someone introduced me as the superintendent, and I said, “Oh, no, I'm just here as dad; don't introduce me as superintendent.”

 

Sure enough, someone came up to me and said, “My daughter wants a job, she wants a job to be a teacher in Dallas.”  I said, “Well, is she bilingual?”  He goes, “Yes, she's bilingual.”  And I said, “Okay, have her contact the office.”  He goes, “Oh, so there's a problem.”  And I use a different term - the term I use is that she's an undocumented resident.  I said, “Well, we can't hire her; she doesn't have an I-9 immigration status document that we can use?”  And he says, “But sir, you don't understand.  You inspired her to go to college. She's been in Dallas ISD since she was in kindergarten and in high school, her teachers inspired her to go to college and get a degree.  And because of the Noriega bill introduced by our legislature, she was able to go to college even though she was undocumented, and she got a degree.”

 

And she spoke the King's English.  I spoke to her and she spoke better English than I, if we talk about English, but yet we can't hire her.  And she knows our culture, knows our kids, went to the University of North Texas and got certified as a bilingual teacher, and we cannot hire her.  Yet we go to Chile, we go to Spain, we go to Puerto Rico and we hire people who can barely speak English, but they have to pass that test, but we can't hire kids that know our culture.

 

And so I thought this is an anomaly. I went to Skyline High School and the librarian told me they've got 500 kids in Skyline High School that want to be future teachers of America.  The only problem is they're not documented.  Thomas Jefferson  - we've got 200 kids there that want to be teachers, bilingual teachers  - that's our biggest shortage.  They've been told they have to go back to Mexico and wait five years and get in the pipeline to come back.  They don't have any family in Mexico, they've been here their whole lives.

 

The analogy I like to make is if we're going to punish the kids for the actions of their parents, then every parent who has a DWI, your kid can never drive.  But people don't understand that.  And sure, the American Dream Act that was before Congress and was about to get passed - and that was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, Orin Hatch was the author of that bill - the American Dream Act has not made it through Congress to take care of the kids like that that have known no other country.  They've just grown up in this country because their parents brought them here, just like two of us.  I was legal and I was lucky, but there are a lot of them that weren't so lucky.

 

Male Speaker: Tom Palaima, from Austin.  Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn and some other speakers this morning talked about this process of creating a way for people to go back.  All of you on the panel are success stories; my grandparents were success stories from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine.  Michael Granoff's parents are success stories of coming to this country.  I really do subscribe to this notion that we all are part of a great success story, those of us in this room, certainly.  But what do you feel about this idea that there are millions who want to go back, readily, to where they came from?

 

I write columns for the Austin American Statesman, if you'll permit me a little bit of an aside because I think it's a poignant thing.  My cousin, Joey, was in the Marines.  He was in Iwo Jima and other terrible battles in the Pacific.  He came back a man with post-traumatic stress, as we would now call it.  When I moved my father from Cleveland about four years ago, I came across letters that he wrote to my mom - my mom wrote to him regularly.  My father had just gotten off of Iwo and he wrote to my mother and he said I lost Mike's address on Iwo, could you find it for us?  And what about my brothers who are back home and are not writing me?  And then he said, When I come back home, I never want to leave home again. I remember talking to my mother - that is my grandmother - and she told me what it was like to leave her parents in Poland, knowing that she would never see them again – which was absolutely impossible to ever get back for a woman of her situation. And he said it’s only now that I've been off here in the Pacific, fighting in these terrible battles, that I understand why she was crying when she told me that story about leaving her parents because she knew she would never see them again.

 

We heard this morning that one of the other factors in immigrant success was the impossibility of returning.  So what I'm asking you about, by this long-winded question, is if there are people who do want to go back, who think that the problems here are too enormous, that intolerance of certain sorts is too extreme?

 

And then the second question:  Is it realistic to assume that those who are making it here, but are under an illegal status will want to go back and queue up in lines at Ellis Island Centers, privately run with all the corruption that's going to be attendant upon them?

 

Hinojosa: Let me go first real quick because, being of Mexican descent, I don't know, but my suspicion would be it would be very few.  And yes, in our culture it's very difficult to leave your family, but once you make that decision, the conditions that some of our immigrants live under are deplorable.  If you've been to some of the places along the border, they're deplorable, but they're so much better than what they left.

 

I don't know the real answer to that.  If I were to guess, based on my own background, I would say a very small percentage would want to go back permanently.

 

Chow: Let me just add something on this.  I think some countries, after they develop into better countries, such as Japan and Taiwan, have less people who want to immigrate to the United States, more people would rather stay in or go back to their own country.  When people decide to move from their country to the United States, they always look for job opportunities, they want to work here in the states.

 

I was not here in the morning, but I a lady sitting right next to me and told me a little bit about what Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison mentioned about a guest worker program where the people can go back to their country, wait for two more weeks, then come back.  But who is going to pay for the bill?  That's the argument.  As a small business owner, I really don't think it's applicable, having the employer pay for all the expenses, like getting a health examination.  You can do a survey, ask all the small business owners if they are willing to spend the money and take the risk and do all those things, to have their employees leave and then come back in two weeks.

 

Orrenius: When it comes to Mexico, it makes sense that migrants would want to work here and keep their families in Mexico. After all, it is much cheaper to live in Mexico. If you can earn your money here and spend it in Mexico, that’s a good deal for many families. We thought that if people had the ability to move back and forth across the border, some would take advantage of it and not bring their whole families to the United States. Of course, it was a different matter entirely to discuss those migrants who had settled here already. Not many want to go back, at least not permanently. It was generally agreed at the time that something like an earned legalization program would benefit the migrants, the economy and national security.