The main goal of welfare is not to support people who are able to work, but to help them to get settled in their new lives.
The following are the main needs of the immigrants:
The most important is to learn the language. I think, we shouldn’t be trying to save money here. By using intensive methods and employing more teachers, the language can be mastered in one to two years, rather than in four to five years.
The special issue is the study of the language for children at school. I am not denying the importance of other subjects, but the language study should remain the main goal since further study will be impossible without it. In my opinion, during the first half year in elementary school and for one year in both high school and college there should be only English language classes.
Newly arrived people should be introduced in a very detailed manner to the specifics of living in the U.S.A. They are interested in the banking system, in the types of insurances available, in the system of taxes. Immigrants should learn about it from a detailed brochure, specially written in their native language.
Let’s talk now about employment. By accepting immigrants and helping them financially, the U.S. government is counting on their contribution through work. But sometimes people willing to work face big difficulties, which could be avoided.
One feels secure by receiving the little, but stable financial help (provided by welfare). When one starts to work, earnings are usually small, which can continue two to three years. In such cases, the working person should know for sure how much financial help can be provided. Welfare’s information about this is very uninformative.
That is why people, by being afraid to lose their income, are sitting on welfare for years. It seems like it would be for the benefit of the government to provide a little extra money to the working person and his/ her family and collect taxes from them, rather than keeping the whole family on welfare.
Reorganizing the language study and the welfare system will require of course additional resources. But they will be repaid, because as a result the country will get useful citizens rather than boarders.
MEMO: This is a sidebar which appeared with story: Lidiya Yanusheva, 33, arrived in Spokane on Dec. 21, 1993, with her parents and two children. A former science teacher, she recently went from part-time to full-time work as a translator at Ferris High School, allowing her to get off welfare. This letter was translated from Russian by Sergei Cemenenkoff.