John Fund writes about the English-Only Showdown
Does Nancy Pelosi really object to a common language in the workplace?
The U.S. used to welcome immigrants while at the same time encouraging assimilation. Since 1906, for example, new citizens have had to show “the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English.” A century later, this preference for assimilation is still overwhelmingly popular. A new Rasmussen poll finds that 87% of voters think it “very important” that people speak English in the U.S., with four out of five Hispanics agreeing. And 77% support the right of employers to have English-only policies, while only 14% are opposed.
But hardball politics practiced by ethnic grievance lobbies is driving assimilation into the dustbin of history. The House Hispanic Caucus withheld its votes from a key bill granting relief on the Alternative Minimum Tax until Ms. Pelosi promised to kill the Salvation Army relief amendment.
As you all well know, I am a staunch advocate of assimilation. I am truly happy to hear that many others are, too:
“We are now celebrating diversity at the expense of unity. One way to create that unity is to value, not devalue, our common language, English.”
That’s what pro-assimilation forces are moving to do. TV Azteca, Mexico’s second-largest network, is launching a 60-hour series of English classes on all its U.S. affiliates. It recognizes that teaching English empowers Latinos. “If you live in this country, you have to speak as everybody else,” Jose Martin Samano, Azteca’s U.S. anchor, told Fox News. “Immigrants here in the U.S. can make up to 50% or 60% more if they speak both English and Spanish. This is something we have to do for our own people.”
Azteca isn’t alone. Next month, a new group called Our Pledge will be launched. Counting Jeb Bush and former Clinton Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros among its board members, the organization believes absorbing immigrants is “the Sputnik challenge of our era.” It will put forward two mutual pledges. It will ask immigrants to learn English, become self-sufficient and pledge allegiance to the U.S. It will ask Americans to provide immigrants help navigating the American system, the chance to eventually become a citizen and an atmosphere of respect.
This is a big challenge, but Our Pledge points out that the U.S. did it before with the Americanization movement of a century ago. It was government led, but the key players were businesses like the Ford Motor Company and nonprofits such as the YMCA, plus an array of churches and neighborhood groups.
The alternative to Americanization is polarization. Already a tenth of the population speaks English poorly or not at all. Almost a quarter of all K-12 students nationwide are children of immigrants living between two worlds. It’s time for people of good will to reject both the nativist and anti-assimilation extremists and act. If the federal government spends billions on the Voice of America for overseas audiences and on National Public Radio for upscale U.S. listeners, why not fund a “Radio New America” whose primary focus is to teach English and U.S. customs to new arrivals?
The surest way to achieve success in our country, the most successful society in the history of mankind, is through integration.