The New Face of Delaware
Immigrants have changed the state and its workforce. The state, therefore, has welcomed them with open arms.
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The education of the foreign-born student extends beyond the classroom. In Middletown, Appoquinimink School District employs four social workers who, during the past year, have helped many families adjust to their new lives, sometimes connecting them with social services and counseling them on medical care, insurance negotiations, financial assistance and other matters.
Through a grant from the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Consolidated Grant Parent Advisory Council, funds are provided to increase proficiency of English learners. The group provides quality professional development to ESL/bilingual teachers, mainstream teachers, principals, and other school staff and community organizations. The program is also designed to improve the instruction and assessment of ELL students.
A dig into the origins of several of America’s largest companies reveals a consistent thread: Many were born from the sweat of immigrants. Locally, E.I. du Pont of France built a gunpowder mill in Delaware in 1802 and founded an industrial empire. Today DuPont employs about 60,000 people at 220 sites in more than 75 countries.
Vishal Tandon says the main reason he is now vice president for global technologies for JPMorgan Chase is his involvement in the bank’s ASPIRE (Asians and South Pacific Islanders Reaching for Excellence) program, one of many ethnic networking groups sponsored by the bank. A native of Bombay, India, Tandon became active in ASPIRE when he was hired by Chase five years ago. For the past two, he has served as its Delaware chairperson.
“ASPIRE allows us to channel our energy into events and ideas that strengthen the bank as well as our community,” Tandon says. “It gives those who share the same heritage a key to outreach at the bank.”
JPMorgan Chase offers several other networking groups. Adelante promotes the development of the bank’s Latino-Hispanic employees. Ujima is a forum for employees of African descent.
At W.L. Gore and Associates, there are six “business networks,” two geared toward Asian-born employees and those who have emigrated from Latino-Hispanic countries. “Our mission statement is part of our culture,” says Beth Teloh, diversity coordinator at W.L. Gore. “Everyone experiences the Gore culture in the same way. We want each associate, no matter what their background and where they come from, to know that there are other associates they can talk with and connect with.”
The number of immigrants in Delaware has remained steady in recent years, though the immigrant population in the United States has decreased, according to the U.S. Census.
The reason for the downturn may be the economy, says Edward Ratledge, director for applied demography and survey research at the University of Delaware. The country lost 240,000 jobs in October alone, the 10th consecutive monthly decline, and the unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent, its highest level since 1994.
“I see no major acceleration in migration to Delaware, whether it is internal or from foreign countries, because these numbers are totally dependent on jobs,” Ratledge says. “The question now is whether the job picture in the state will necessitate that this population leaves Delaware.”
Idil is one course away from receiving his certificate in ELI’s English as a Second Language program. “I want to live in this country,” Idil says. “After I receive my certificate, I will look at my life in a new way.”
The five-year waiting period of citizenship ended for Idil on January 28, a date he had marked on the calendar, because it is also the day he intended to apply to become a United States citizen.