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First graders in a dual-language program at Dos Puentes Elementary  in Upper Manhattan.

True bilingualism is a relatively rare and a beautiful thing, and by “true,” I mean speaking two languages with the proficiency of a native — something most of us will only dream of as we struggle with learning languages in school and beyond.

Highly competent bilingualism is probably more common in other countries, since many children growing up in the United States aren’t exposed to other languages. But the steps along the road toward bilingualism can help a child’s overall facility with language. And early exposure to more than one language can confer certain advantages, especially in terms of facility with forming the sounds in that language.

But parents should not assume that young children’s natural language abilities will lead to true grown-up language skills without a good deal of effort. Erika Hoff, a developmental psychologist who is a professor at Florida Atlantic University and the lead author of a 2015 review article on bilingual development, said: “For everybody trying to raise a bilingual child, whatever your background and reason, it’s very important to realize that acquiring a language requires massive exposure to that language.”

Pediatricians routinely advise parents to talk as much as possible to their young children, to read to them and sing to them. Part of the point is to increase their language exposure, a major concern even for children growing up with only one language. And in order to foster language development, the exposure has to be person-to-person; screen time doesn’t count for learning language in young children — even one language — though kids can learn content and vocabulary from educational screen time later on. “For bilingual development, the child will need exposure to both languages,” Dr. Hoff said, “and that’s really difficult in a monolingual environment, which is what the U.S. is.”

Pediatricians advise non-English-speaking parents to read aloud and sing and tell stories and speak with their children in their native languages, so the children get that rich and complex language exposure, along with sophisticated content and information, rather than the more limited exposure you get from someone speaking a language in which the speaker is not entirely comfortable.

Parents come up with all kinds of strategies to try to promote this kind of exposure. Some families decide that each parent will speak a different language to the child. But the child will be able to sort out the two languages even if both parents speak them both, Dr. Hoff said. “There is certainly no research to suggest that children need to have languages lined up with speakers or they get confused.” On the other hand, that rule could be a way of making sure that the non-English language is used.

If a child grows up with caretakers who speak a foreign language — perhaps a Chinese au pair or a French nanny — the child may see some benefits down the road in studying that language. But if a child grows up speaking that second language — Korean, say — with cousins and grandparents, attending a “Saturday School” that emphasizes the language and the culture, listening to music and even reading books in that language, and visits Korea along the way, that child will end up with a much stronger sense of the language.

It does take longer to acquire two languages than one, Dr. Hoff said, and that, again, comes back to the exposure.

“A child who is learning two languages will have a smaller vocabulary in each than a child who is only learning one; there are only so many hours in the day, and you’re either hearing English or Spanish,” Dr. Hoff said. The children will be fine, though, she said. They may mix the languages, but that doesn’t indicate confusion. “Adult bilinguals mix their languages all the time; it’s a sign of language ability,” she said.

Dr. Hoff works in South Florida, where there is a very educated and affluent population raising children in Spanish and English. “The children start out as baby bilinguals, but the older they get, the more English overtakes Spanish,” she said. “The ones who are successful bilinguals as adults are still much better in English than they are in Spanish — they didn’t go to school in Spanish, they don’t read books in Spanish, and when you actually measure the size of their vocabularies, or the grammar they understand, or the coherence of the narrative they produce, they are not as proficient as they are in English.”

Gigliana Melzi, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of applied psychology at New York University who studies language in Spanish- and English-speaking Latino families, agreed. “Parents will need to be mindful about introducing the child to literacy in that language,” she said. “They will need to be thoughtful about ways they will encourage the child to maintain the language.”

It’s also important, she said, to watch the individual child and make sure the child is not overloaded with demands because of parental expectations and ambitions; maybe three languages on top of a musical instrument and a serious sport is just too much.

The languages you learn as a child are important, but so are the languages you learn later in life. “We all know people who make great contributions and do great science in English and are not native speakers,” Dr. Hoff said. “The human brain is amazing, and the human capacity to acquire language is amazing.”

So what should parents do if they want to give their children a bilingual boost? “Find a native speaker and have that native speaker have fun, interesting conversations with your child, and your child will learn something,” Dr. Hoff said. “Don’t expect it will turn your child into a perfect balanced bilingual, but that’s O.K.” Whatever you do is an advantage.

Dr. Melzi said that often, a child who has been fluent in two languages in the preschool years goes to school where English is spoken, and starts using English to describe what happens there.

“There is a push worldwide where English becomes like the lingua franca, so it’s important that the child be exposed to the other language early, and the younger you are, the more nativelike you’re going to sound,” she said. On the other hand, older children may learn more easily: “The younger you are, the more head start you have,” she said. “The older you are, the more efficient learner you are, you have a first language you can use as a bootstrap.”

So true bilingualism may be rare, but parents shouldn’t be discouraged on that account, since all the skills that children acquire along the way are very valuable, Dr. Melzi said. “It’s worth it, but it’s a lot of work.”

Your Editor Believes: Biliguism requires commitment, interest and, why not? rewards.

We’re interested in your feedback on this page. Tell us what you think.


Trump Compliments Brigitte Macron’s Body

President Trump was captured on video complimenting the physical appearance of the wife of President Emmanuel Macron of France.

Shortly after President Trump arrived in France on Friday for an official visit, he took a moment to tell the country’s first lady, Brigitte Macron, what he thought of her physical appearance.

“You’re in such good shape,” Mr. Trump told Mrs. Macron, who was standing in a grand marble hall with her back to a camera that recorded the incident. He then turned to the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape.”

“Beautiful,” Mr. Trump said, turning to the first lady of France. She appeared to grab Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, by the arm and take a step backward. But Mrs. Trump stood next to her, smiling.

The encounter happened during a tour of the Hôtel National des Invalides, a museum complex in central Paris that houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was broadcast live on a Facebook video stream on Mr. Macron’s official Facebook account. A clip of the episode soon spread widely online and in the news media.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly commented publicly on the physical appearance of women he has encountered either as a presidential candidate or as president — including the comedian Rosie O’Donnell and, now, the first lady of France.

Last month, Mr. Trump was criticized by members of both parties for attacking the cable news host Mika Brzezinski in a string of tweets, describing her as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claiming that at a past meeting she had been “bleeding badly from a facelift.”

Earlier in June, Mr. Trump interrupted an Oval Office phone call with the prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, to comment on the physical appearance of Caitriona Perry, a Washington correspondent for Ireland’s national broadcaster.

And where are you from?” Mr. Trump said to Ms. Perry. “Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press.”

After Ms. Perry introduced herself, Mr. Trump told Mr. Varadkar, “She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.”

FocusON Trilinguism: In Spanish Trump could have said:  Que bien estás, Que buena estás,  ÑÑÑo, pá 63 años estás muy bien

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus emerged from a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly with a grim message for America’s undocumented immigrants in the Trump era: Prepare for the worst.

During the hour-long meeting, Kelly warned lawmakers that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—the popular Obama-era program that has shielded nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work legally in the only country they call home—may not survive a legal challenge brought on by Republican leaders in Texas and nine other states. Kelly also indicated the future of immigrants with Temporary Protective Status—“a form of relief extended to nationals of countries unable to handle their return because of civil strife, natural disasters and instability”—is unsure. When lawmakers confronted Kelly about the fact that he has the authority to say which immigrants should and shouldn’t be deported, the number one at DHS “pretended he didn’t have such authority.”

Further stunning lawmakers was Kelly’s admission that DACA’s future may be decided by Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who, aside from Donald Trump himself, may be the most anti-immigrant official in the administration:

Kelly also told the Democratic lawmakers that he has met with Sessions to discuss DACA, though he did not provide details of their conversation. Given Sessions’ hard-line immigration stance, however, it’s unlikely the Attorney General would defend DACA on the government’s behalf.

“I asked the secretary very directly whether the administration would defend DACA and he couldn’t give me a conclusive answer,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) told the Dallas News.

“I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who was present at the meeting. Kelly “said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence. They actually want to take millions of people who are documented—with our own government—make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. So, I fear for anybody currently with DACA or TPS.”

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to kill the DACA program on day one of his presidency, but has so far left it intact following immense pressure from immigrant rights advocates, legislators, faith leaders, the business community, and many others.

Kelly’s admission that DACA could fail in court gives the administration just the out it’s been looking for, which is why Kelly also used the meeting to paint himself as personally supportive of young immigrants, saying Congress should pass legislation to help DACA recipients. But when asked if he supported such bills—there’s the bipartisan “Bridge Act,” which would basically codify DACA—the number one at DHS said he wasn’t aware of any such legislation. “There was a combination of laughter and appalled shock in the room,” said Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA).

The fact is, the only immigration-related bills Donald Trump and his administration have openly supported are entirely anti-immigrant, including “Kate’s Law,” which does nothing more than endanger public safety and demonize immigrant families.

“This is a Code Red moment,” said immigrant rights leader Frank Sharry of America’s Voice. “Kelly talks as if he’s a reasonable person who is only doing his job, but he’s become the perfect pitchman for the Trump Administration’s mass deportation agenda.”

Immigrant youth leaders pledged to continue fighting for DACA, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of youth to pursue higher education, professional careers, and lift up their families and communities. Immigrant youth won DACA in 2012 following relentless organizing, activism, and pressure on elected officials on both sides of the aisle. They’re sticking to that plan.

“Today, United We Dream and the immigrant youth movement make a pledge to love and support one another as we enter into a fight for our very lives,” said Greisa Martinez. “Immigrant youth won the DACA program by fearlessly stepping up, sharing our stories and leading with love. There is deep anxiety in immigrant communities today but also a fierce determination to win because this is our home and we are here to stay.”

Your Editor Stands with Dreamers:  We will not succumb

By Vienna Flores, Law and Business Review of the Americas

“DEPORTATION, Deportation, Deportation!” These three words seem to encompass America’s approach towards immigrants. Yet Cuban immigrants are treated differently. For almost fifty years, the turbulent political relationship between the United States and Cuba provided relaxed immigration policies for Cubans sailing away from communism. Cubans risked their lives to cross the tumultuous sea and reach the shores of a better tomorrow. But with recent discussions of improved relations between the neighboring countries, the tides are changing.

This report analyzes whether the effects of improved relations between the United States and Cuba will affect favorable Cuban immigration laws. Section one analyzes the history of the Cuban embargo. Section two discusses the history of the Cuban Adjustment Act and U.S. immigration laws. Section three focuses on the revival of economic ties with Cuba by the Obama Administration. Finally, section four deliberates the effects of lifting the Cuban embargo on the Cuban Adjustment Act.


Bitter disagreements between the United States and Cuba have caused a long-held political grudge that has excluded Cuba from the rest of the world for more than fifty years.* 1 This state of rancor, however, would have been unexpected a century ago. After its bitter defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain renounced its rights to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam, among others, and granted the lands to the United States.2 Cuba’s elusive independence came shortly thereafter. Despite that independence, the United States maintained the right to involve itself in Cuban affairs and continued to station troops in the country.3 The Platt Amendment of 1903 furthered U.S. involvement in Cuba by also “permitt[ing] the United States to lease or buy lands for the purpose of . . . establishing naval bases. . . and coaling stations in Cuba.”4 The United States wanted to remain connected with Cuba to promote “a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty.”5 Nevertheless, Franklin D. Roosevelt repealed the act in 1934.6

Then came the Cuban Revolution, led by a young, politically-charged man named Fidel Castro.7 Castro initiated the Revolution after the then President, General Fulgencio Batista, overthrew the standing government and cancelled political elections in 1952, elections in which Castro intended to participate.8 Angry about the state of the government, Castro and his brother, Raúl, tried to create an uprising, failed, and landed in prison.9 Castro was released from prison in 1955.10 He then fled to Mexico to plan his next move with the help of a young Marxist named Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.* 11 In 1956, Castro, prepared for vengeance, began his attacks against Batista.12 Meanwhile, the United States imposed an “arms embargo against Batista’s government,” indicating support for Castro’s movement.13 Castro finally overthrew Batista and became Cuba’s leader late in December of 1958.14 The country hailed Castro as a hero15 and the United States “immediately recognized the new regime.”16

But the United States’ embrace was not long-lived. By 1960, Castro’s communism swept the country when he took all private land and companies and placed a heavy tax on U.S. products.17 Castro completely opposed American interference in Cuban affairs and had no reservations about sharing that opinion.18 In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a “unilateral embargo on all exports to Cuba.”19 Castro responded by executing favorable trade laws with the Soviet Union, which the United States saw as absolute betrayal and the final straw.20 On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issued the now infamous Cuban Embargo that economically and diplomatically isolated Cuba.21

President Kennedy’s proclamation urged that Cuba’s alignment with Soviet Communism and “the present Government of Cuba [was] incompatible with the principles and objectives of the Inter-American system.”22 Under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961,23 President Kennedy instituted the embargo against “importation into the United States of all goods of Cuban origin and all goods imported from or through Cuba,” and all exports.24 The embargo also severed any existing ties between the United States and Cuba.25 This marked the beginning of bitterness and countless grim occasions between two neighboring countries.26


The embargo caused food shortages and increased poverty to sweep through Cuba.27 Because of the enduring problems, the United States gave Cubans the opportunity to escape the Communist regime by legally fleeing to America.28 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provided refugee or asylum status when a person had been “persecuted or fear[ed] they [would] be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”29 Refugees are people who are outside of their country and do not return due to fear of impending harm.30 By contrast, asylees are those who qualify as refugees, but are already in the United States.31 The privilege of lawful Cuban immigration to the United States has persisted since November 2, 1966, because of the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA).32 “Cubans are the only nationality to which Congress has awarded this special treatment.”33 The CAA provided that

any alien who is a native or citizen of Cuba and who has been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States subsequent to January 1, 1959 and has been physically present in the United States for at least two years, may be adjusted by the Attorney General, in his discretion and under such regulations as he may prescribe, to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if the alien makes an application for such adjustment, and the alien is eligible to receive an immigrant visa and is admissible to the United States for permanent residence.34

The act was later amended to allow adjustment of permanent status after one year and one day of presence in the United States.35 The CAA also applies to the spouse and child of a Cuban refugee, regardless of their place of birth or nationality.36 Persons fleeing Cuba are “presumed to be refugees under international law,” which Congress used to justify the CAA.37 There was no limit to the number of people granted refugee or asylee status in the beginning.38

The Cold War’s end caused turbulent economic times that pounded Cuba in the 1980s, causing more Cubans to seek political asylum in foreign countries, including the United States.39 Castro allowed Cubans to travel to the United States on boats from the Mariel Port if they were unhappy and wanted to leave.40 But Castro also maliciously sent criminals and mental hospital patients to Florida coasts, and then refused to take them back.41 The “Mariel Boatlift” led to an estimated 125,000 undocumented immigrants entering the United States.42 With that surge of Cuban immigration in mind, the United States set boundaries and worked with Cuba to promote “safe, legal, and orderly immigration.”43

At the time, President Bill Clinton claimed that “[t]he Cuban Government [would] not succeed in any attempt to dictate American immigra-. tion policy.”44 Clinton’s stance came to be known as the “wet-foot, dryfoot” policy, in which Cubans found at sea would not be granted asylum or refugee status.45 Instead, they would be taken to Guantanamo Bay or returned to Cuba without ever having the opportunity to gain legal immigration status in the United States.46 This changed the previously enthusiastic outlook of Cuban immigration but continued to help those who reached the United States without interception by the U.S. Coast Guard.47 It also limited the number of visas provided for Cubans to 20,000 per year.48


After the embargo was executed, the United States continued to enact legislation to advance its plan of politically isolating Cuba. The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 encouraged the President to advise other countries trading with Cuba to sever their ties.49 All countries failing to follow the United States’ advice would be subject to sanctions.50 The Cuban Democracy Act’s projection of U.S. power was polemic and denounced by the United Nations multiple times as an impermissible extraterritorial extension of U.S. jurisdiction.51 Nonetheless, the United States strengthened its boycott once again in 1996, after Cuba shot down two U.S. civilian planes, through The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, also known as the Helms-Burton Act.52 The act provided that any foreign countries continuing trade with Cuba would also have an embargo enforced against them.53

But finally, after a devastating hurricane in 2001, the United States graciously decided to help Cuba by allowing American companies to sell food to the country.54 It was the first positive gesture between the two countries in many years. In December of 2014, President Obama “ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to ‘cut loose the shackles of the past’ and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.”55 On January 16, 2015, the Expert Administration Regulations was amended to “authorize the export and re-export of certain items to Cuba that [were] intended to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people; support independent economic activity and strengthen civil society in Cuba; and improve the free flow of information to, from, and among, the Cuban people.”56 The adjustments were meant to help improve Cuba’s communication with the rest of the word by allowing for the commercial sale of software, hardware, and other devices.57

The Department of Treasury amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulation policy to “facilitate travel” between the United States and Cuba by authorizing airlines to fly to Cuba.58 Additionally, U.S. financial institutions are now allowed to open accounts in Cuba and individuals are allowed to send more money to family members there.59 On May 29, 2015, the United States removed Cuba from its terror list.60 Just a month later, the United States and Cuba announced that they would restore diplomatic ties and reopen their respective embassies.61

Regardless of the advances, however, eradicating the entire embargo will be difficult. The United Nations has attempted to condemn the U.S. embargo for twenty-two years without any success.62 Lifting the embargo requires the approval of not only Congress, but the president as well.63 In any event, the many laws affecting Cuba-especially those that address accessible Cuban immigration policy-will be the source of much political debate in the upcoming months.


The mere mention of immigration sows discord. This negative stigma has put immigration reform on every political agenda. Yet resolution seems elusive. The same holds true for the CAA, especially given recent talks of restoring relations with Cuba.64 The United States’ relationship with Cuba improves daily, which undoubtedly means that the current immigration policies are subject to change. It also suggests that the once favorable act may be terminated forever. Congress had an initial goal with the CAA: to free Cuba “from Communist domination [so] that Cuban people [would], again, be able to enjoy the benefits of freedom.”65 The CAA continues to encourage Cubans to flee oppression. As of 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that there were 1,889,000 Cubans in the United States.66

With the immense amounts of Cuban immigrants traversing dangerous seas to reach a safe haven, the United States adopted the strict immigration regulations mentioned above. The Cuban Adjustment Act was amended in 1996 to include a provision that the law would be “repealed” once Cuba had “a democratically elected government” in power.67 Although this has yet to happen, politicians have not wasted any time arguing against the act. With the progress between the two countries, it appears likely that the CAA will change in the upcoming years. Politicians now believe Cuban immigrants will abuse the system by traveling to the United States and merely claiming persecution, and then staying for a year and a day to gain legal status before returning to Cuba.68

Moreover, most Cubans still come to the United States “seeking better economic conditions” instead of “fleeing political persecution” as required for asylum.69 The newly amended laws will exacerbate this problem because travel between the two countries will grant Cubans easier access to the United States and increase the number of immigrants seeking refugee status.70 With increased immigration concerns, many argue that the CAA unjustly favors Cubans over other immigrants71 and that the policy should be eradicated “to foster safe and orderly migration and to save lives.”72 But it would take congressional power to repeal the longstanding law.73

President Obama announced that there would no change to immigration policy.74 But if there were to be a change, the number of undocumented immigrants would spike. The current act requires Cubans to wait a year and a day before applying for legal status.75 A sort of immigration limbo exists until then. When a Cuban first arrives in the United States they are paroled into the country.76 Parole allows a person to enter the country for a specific reason, including “urgent humanitarian reasons,” and considers the person an inadmissible non-citizen.77 If the act were repealed, many paroled Cubans would be unable to apply for lawful residence and, in turn, would remain in the country as undocumented immigrants unless they were grandfathered in. Improved diplomatic relations lessen any chance for recognition of a “humanitarian crisis” that would allow Cubans to realize refugee or asylum status.78

But what if restoring the relationship between the two countries does not improve conditions in Cuba? America believed in fostering Cuban immigrants because communism was politically oppressive-a view antithetical to the United States’ continued business with and support of other communist countries.79 Even if Cuba does not become a democratic country, the United States will surely change its immigration policies soon.

NiLP Note: With anti-immigrant fervor at a high point in the country, we keep getting asked about the status of the Cuban Adjustment Act and whether it is also being criticized or not. There is some resentment that Cubans occupy a privelged position among immigrants as a holdover of Cold War politics and whether it is about time that this Act should be ended. This, however, is doubtful under a Trump Administration. So we thought you would find the article below outlinng this issues involved helpful.  —Angelo Falcón  

Your Editor Proclaims: If the Obama decision to “go home” is good for Cunbans, non-Cubans and especially Latin Americans, let’s give it a chance. No instant gratification there.