ESL Research has shown that English ability has, and continues to be the most important indicator of refugee success upon arrival in the United States.  Unfortunately, resource allocation to English language programs for these populations does not reflect this fact.

The articles below outline both quantitative and qualitative data in support of increased English language training for refugee and immigrant populations living in or coming to the United States.


THE INTEGRATION OUTCOMES OF U.S. REFUGEES: Successes and Challenges – Randy Capps and Kathleen Newland
with Susan Fratzke, Susanna Groves, Gregory Auclair, Michael Fix, and Margie McHugh (June 2015).

“In the long term, improving English language proficiency is crucial to refugees’ self-sufficiency and integration.”

“Only a small share of resettled refugee adults (5 – 10 percent) advance their education once in the United States.”

“In 2009 – 11 more than half of refugees who had lived in the United States over 20 years were Low English Proficiency.”

“Refugees often wait months or even years for resettlement in the United States, and predeparture programs during this time could help fill gaps in their literacy, language, and job skills, particularly for populations living in camps where access to education and workforce development opportunities may be otherwise limited.”

“Despite its challenges, the U.S. refugee program has decades of experience in successful resettlement. It is critical to maintain financial and political support for this program as the number of refugees in need of resettlement continues to increase globally.”


ADULT ENGLISH LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES: Determining Need and Investing Wisely –  Margie McHugh, Julia Gelatt, and Michael Fix (July 2007).

“Learning to speak, read, and write in the English language is the most important integration challenge that faces the 1.8 million immigrants who now arrive in the United States each year. English is truly the language of opportunity for today’s immigrants: it opens the door to jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and allows immigrants to communicate with their neighbors, their children’s teachers, health care providers, landlords, and others with whom they must interact on a regular basis. English skills are also crucial to passing the US citizenship exam, which serves as a gateway to full participation in the life of one’s community, including the ability to vote in local, state, and federal elections.”

“Ensuring that immigrants have the opportunity to acquire strong English language and literacy skills is among the most neglected domestic policy issues in our nation today.”

“Providing English language instruction is an investment in the human capital of the nation that generates quantifiable results in the form of increased tax revenues, lower social welfare payments, and improved educational and workforce outcomes among children of immigrants.”

“Statistical analyses have shown that immigrants who are English proficient earn between 13 to 24 percent more than immigrants who are not English proficient.”



“Any strategy to improve immigrants’ employment opportunities and economic integration must address the central challenge many immigrants face in the labor market: acquiring proficiency in their host country’s language.”

“At any skill level, language proficiency is perhaps the single most important determinant of immigrant integration.”

“Considerable research has examined the relationship between language proficiency and economic integration. Immigrants with greater host-language proficiency earn more and work in more skilled occupations than those with low proficiency, even after controlling for differences in education and skill associated with language abilities.”


Survey Says: To Be American Is To Speak EnglishJULEYKA LANTIGUA-WILLIAMS (February 2017).

“The report’s authors conclude that of all the attributes associated with national identity, ‘language far and away is seen as the most critical.’ ” 



“She couldn’t visit a doctor’s office without a translator. Or communicate with her children’s teachers. Or get around a city that felt daunting yet safe.”

“In a system designed to push refugees to economic self-sufficiency within three to six months of their arrival, developing English-language skills is critical to survival, say experts, who work closely with refugee communities.”

“But perhaps more importantly than opening up doors for employment, learning English has a profound impact on refugees’ self-esteem.”


Refugee English Language Ability and Employment Prospects BackgroundHannah Wilkinson (March 2016).

“Refugees who lack appropriate English skills are among the least likely to be employed. Not only is finding employment difficult, but if they do, refugees often find themselves in entry-level positions with little room for growth.”