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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 1543

Location: Washington, DC


S. 1543. A bill to amend and improve provisions relating to the workforce investment and adult education systems of the Nation; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I rise to announce that today I am introducing The Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act with Senator ENSIGN and Senator BINGAMAN. I am grateful to both Senators for working with me to develop this legislation. I consider them partners in the important effort to expand opportunities for job training for Limited English Proficient individuals. I also want to thank the dedicated individuals at the New York Immigration Coalition, the National Immigration Law Center, the National Council at La Raza and the Immigration Forum for their significant contributions to this proposal.

It is vitally important that our workforce investment system be responsive to the needs of those who do not speak English.
Immigrants and Limited English Proficient individuals play a crucial role in the New York State and U.S. economy.
Immigrants account for nearly half of the growth in the civilian labor force between 1990 and 2000 and immigrants are projected to account for all of the growth in the prime-age labor force between 2000 and 2020.

Immigrants fill critical jobs, are the backbone of many industries, and are net contributors to the Nation's tax base. Without current and future immigrants in the workforce, our aging society will be short of workers; short of savings and investment to support national economic growth; and short of tax revenues to finance government services and Social Security outlays.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on which I serve, is in the process of reauthorizing the Workforce Investment (WIA). WIA reauthorization provides a valuable opportunity for Congress to improve our Nation's workforce development system to effectively serve immigrants and persons who are Limited English proficient. And I look forward to working with my colleagues on the HELP Committee to incorporate this legislation into the reauthorization bill.

The Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act will reduce barriers to job training for English language learners by creating incentives for training providers to serve these individuals. It will also make programs that integrate job training and language acquisition more accessible. Employees have found that integrated programs offer a significant return on their investment because they improve productivity, reduce attendance problems, increase job retention rates, and promote overall quality control. Limited English Proficient persons also benefit from integrated training through improved job security, increased job advancement, and a greater ability to participate in society.

There is no question that English proficiency is critical to economic advancement and improved quality of life for LEP workers and their families. Workers who are fluent in oral and written English earn about 24 percent more than those who lack fluency, regardless of their qualifications. These individuals are better able to participate in the civic life of their community, which so many LEP individuals in New York tell me they want to do.

I look forward to continuing the work with Senator ENSIGN and Senator BINGAMAN to improve job training services for immigrants and LEP individuals.

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