American Opportunity Centers

In the most recent episode of the Ricochet Podcast, Reince Priebus talks about the need to create a permanent party infrastructure in minority communities. I defer to his expertise on the specifically political, but one idea I’ve had is for the party to establish a non-profit that would open American Opportunity Centers around the country to teach immigrants English and history/civics. This could be something for local party volunteers to do when there’s no calls to make or doors to knock on, and it wouldn’t necessarily be expensive (it would certainly cost less than the $400 million Karl Rove flushed down the toilet last year).

While there wouldn’t be any campaigning or even anything overtly political at the Opportunity Centers, they would clearly be identified as a Republican project and would provide something that’s in great demand among newcomers. In fact, in addition to language instruction and studying for the citizenship test, the Opportunity Centers could also have workshops on how to start a small business (helping them navigate the maze of red tape crated by the leftists), and maybe other subjects, like how to establish a good credit record so you can apply for a mortgage.

Would alumni of the Opportunity Centers who passed their citizenship test end up mostly voting Democrat? Probably, but that’s going to happen anyway (which is one of the myriad reasons future immigration has to be reduced), but the Opportunity Centers would help make it more likely that the minority of immigrants who are open to the conservative small government message actually hear it.

Even more important, Opportunity Centers would connect grassroots Republican activists to immigrants, allowing each to see the other as they really are, rather than as the media or chauvinist groups like La Raza portray them.

I’ve been teaching citizenship classes for some time now in the DC area at a fine operation run by Catholic Charities and have benefited a lot, and, I hope, helped some of my students. If Republicans want to do a better job at connecting with future Americans, they need to do something real like this, not pander with a Spanish response to the State of the Union or play me-too politics by backing the left’s amnesty schemes.

  1. Merina Smith

    I live in San Diego.  This would be a good place to start one.  I’d like to volunteer at such a center.

  2. The King Prawn

    It would be interesting to see who actually does this sort of thing. I suspect it’s mostly conservatives anyway.

  3. Lee

    It’s a terrific idea on every level. I’d definitely volunteer.

  4. katievs

    I like this idea a lot.

  5. Chris Gregerson

    I posted a comment like this to a blog on what to do now about a month or so ago. Was told it was too hard. Been trying to push it in my Kansas town.

    But if we don’t start now then when? As you discuss real issues with most all Americans we all seem to want the same things. Better life for our kids and a chance at retiring before we drop dead on the job. An opportunity center would give real hope to those who don’t really know how to escape generational poverty.

    Our biggest theme should be the family values sub-set of two parent families as both the most moral and economical way to have and raise kids.

    We also need to stress the morality of capitalism, which gets the best suited folks to work on the jobs that need doing ’cause someone is willing to pay for them.

  6. Kay Ludlow
    Mark Krikorian: In fact, in addition to language instruction and studying for the citizenship test, the Opportunity Centers could also have workshops on how to start a small business (helping them navigate the maze of red tape crated by the leftists), and maybe other subjects, like how to establish a good credit record so you can apply for a mortgage.

    I can think of no better way to educate immigrants about tax reform than while you’re helping them prepare their taxes

    Great idea!

  7. Duane Oyen

    I am generally very much in the Chavez camp in the usual Krikorian-Chavez wars, and have little sympathy for FAIR.

    But this is exactly the kind of thing that should be done, and I applaud Mr. Krikorian for this post.

    If conservatives want to show groups of people that we actually care, it will not be from election-season outreach interspersed with bombastic rhetoric in the interim.  We are offering less popular messages of personal responsibility, freedom, and free markets in place of nanny-state giveaways a la La Raza.  That is why the Republican party should be setting up tutoring programs in the inner city and bus programs to get kids to improved voucher schools, and teaching English in the barrio.  In the end, you can peel off a few votes- but creates real supporters for the right reasons- and that may be enough.

    But it has to be real, like this, not a ploy.  Not phony electioneering to disguise a budget cuts program. 

  8. Don Tillman

    Mark, I recently suggested something similar, but from a different angle.

    How would you compare the two?

  9. Nanda Panjandrum

    I’d certainly volunteer….

  10. Mark Krikorian
    C
    Don Tillman: Mark, I recently suggested something similar, but from a different angle.

    How would you compare the two? · 1 hour ago

    I like your idea — basically it’s like community policing except it’s community campaigning. I think maybe the difference is that I’m proposing to offer something concrete that many immigrants already want, and then building from there. One of your commenters, being a little snarky but I think correct, said that there’s isn’t likely to be much of a market for lectures on the Constitution in the places you’re thinking of.

    In addition, English and civics classes would provide a low-impact volunteering opportunity for lots of Republican grassroots people – I teach once week, but the class is four nights a week, with a different teacher each night (I’m doing Tuesdays this semester). That enables the immigrants to meet Americans who are neither bosses using their labor nor do-gooder social workers using them to inflate their clientele. At the same time, it enables the American volunteers to meet blue-collar immigrants in a context that doesn’t involve ordering french fries or having your lawn mowed.

  11. Brian Clendinen

      I think this is critical. We need to stop playing the short game and throwing away tens millions of dollars over a few month period ever 2 years and hundreds of millions ever 4 years. Stop the candidate centric spending we should be spending most money on promoting the party and specific ideas not candidates who have a R.

  12. Peter Robinson
    C

    Wow.  Mark, this idea strikes me as just plain brilliant.

  13. Z in MT

    This is a terrific idea.  Now we need to convince one large Republican donor to make this plan a contingency on a donation.  Either that, or we need to start a new non-profit to put the plan into action.

    As conservatives, we often preach the virtue of non-governmental associations.  However, unlike the left, almost all explicitly conservative organizations are completely focused on government policy and don’t think to provide services.  There are more than enough conservative think tanks and policy advocacy groups, but there are no conservative ACORN’s, la Raza’s, Unions, etc.

    Churches and local Chamber of Commerce’s are often generally conservative organizations, but rightly they are explicitly non-partisan and non-ideological.

  14. TG
    Z in MT: … start a new non-profit to put the plan into action.

    This.  Where shall I send the check (and how do we get started)?

  15. Jon in SC

    Where are the citizenship classes conducted?  What is the curriculum? What course material is used?  Who are the students?  Many many questions.  More information please.  What a great idea.

  16. Mark Krikorian
    C
    Jon in DC: Where are the citizenship classes conducted?  What is the curriculum? What course material is used?  Who are the students?  Many many questions.  More information please.  What a great idea. · 18 minutes ago

    Here’s the place I work with, though there may be others: http://www.hogarimmigrantservices.org/index.html There are commercially published books and teacher’s guides geared toward passing the civics/history part of the naturalization test.

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