The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
"The Spanish Prisoners", according to Obama: Legal Working Americans??
Ed Morrissey adds commentary:
Barack Obama addressed the issue of official languages yesterday by endorsing one: Spanish. Instead of worrying about immigrants learning English, he told an audience, America should be teaching its children Spanish. Every child should be bilingual, Obama said, but listen to the language he chooses later [video above follows...]
Well, which is it — should we teach them Spanish or French? Maybe we should teach them Chinese, or perhaps Arabic. Immigrants come from around the world to live in America. Perhaps Obama doesn’t realize this, but they don’t all speak Spanish. If our children have to learn foreign languages so that immigrants feel at home here, then we’d better plan on keeping them in school for about 30 years.
Also, Obama’s argument here makes no sense. He’s complaining that Americans don’t speak the native language when we visit Europe, but that we don’t speak the immigrant language when people move to the United States. With that argument, shouldn’t we expect Europeans to speak English when we travel there?
I agree that everyone "ought" to learn a foreign language. I spoke French for a while, and I know a little Spanish from growing up in Southern California, and I studied Irish for several years. The study of foreign language not only broadens one’s cultural perspective, but it also helps in understanding one’s native tongue. However, to argue that Americans should learn Spanish as a higher priority than insisting that immigrants learn English is nonsense, and Obama’s argument for it is a giant non-sequitur. It carries a strong whiff of America-bashing, too.
No kidding. Newt Gingrich has always been quite articulate on this topic, and the gist of his message bears repeating here (emphasis mine):
Our country has a rich history of immigration. It has been a primary source of our creativity and our prosperity. We should continue to strongly encourage those immigrants who want to become citizens, but it is important that we accept only those who want to embrace American values and culture.
There is no such thing as a genetic American. To become an American citizen means becoming an American in values, culture, and historic understanding.
English is the language of American success and provides the basis for American cultural unity.
Therefore, as a part of any comprehensive immigration reform we must renew our commitment to citizenship reform focused on the English language, education about American citizenship based on American history, and an understanding of the Founding Fathers and the core values of American civilization. We should continue to strongly encourage those who want to become citizens, but it is important that we accept only those who want to embrace American values and culture.
English is not and never has been the only language in America. We have a long tradition of people speaking many languages in their local community and with other immigrants. But English has been and should remain our primary language and should be the only language used to express the people's will through their government.
Specific Citizenship Reform measures should include:
- Returning to English language ballots, to a focus on English language literacy as a prerequisite of citizenship, to an insistence that U.S. dual citizens vote only in the United States and give up voting in their birth nations; These were principles widely understood and accepted for most of American history and they enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants and assimilate them and their children into an American civilization;
- Rescinding Executive Order 13166 requiring multilingualism in federal documents;
- Require a written test in English on American history for any legal immigrant who wishes to become a citizen and meets all qualification criteria;
- Enforcing the Oath of Allegiance (and making its understanding and affirmation part of the citizenship test, including specific programs to study for the citizenship test emphasizing American heroes, including military heroes);
- Focusing federal funds on teaching American history and the principles of American civilization;
- National Program for English Instruction. There should be a National Program for English Instruction that is modeled after the highly successful "Ulpan Studies" program in Israel. This would provide highly intensive English and American history and civics training for new immigrants so that they can have the practical skills to participate in every day American life and become employed. To encourage participation, immigrants would be incentivized with a reasonable stipend. Other benefits could include a shortening of the naturalization period for successful completion of the course.
Chris Cox of California described the program in a bill that he once developed:
Like the United States, Israel has a polyglot immigrant mix, including Eastern Europeans, Central Asians and Ethiopians, most of whom speak little or no English. Every new immigrant to Israel is entitled to 500 hours of intensive Hebrew language training, which is designed to give them the language and practical skills to participate in everyday Israeli life. Although the program is not compulsory, participants receive a small stipend to defray expenses and receive a certificate upon successful completion of the program. This certificate has real value, since many employers require an "Ulpan certificate" for a job and many schools require one for admission.
Chris Cox's 2004 proposal is the kind of innovative solution that is a "win-win" for new immigrants and the future of America. Like the Israeli program, it would provide highly intensive English, American history and civics training for immigrants so they can acquire the practical skills to fully participate in their communities and workplaces. To encourage participation, immigrants could be given a stipend. In addition, the time required for naturalization could be shortened for those who successfully complete the program.
WE CAN DO IT
We can be dramatically more successful in helping those who want to embrace American values and culture, and become citizens, to assimilate far more effectively.
As we work to reform our immigration policies, especially citizenship reform measures, we must never lose sight of the self evident truths affirmed at our founding. That we are all created equal - citizen and non-citizen alike, and that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
If these truths are to have any meaning, then we must recognize that every person has an inherent human dignity that must be respected, including those in the U.S. illegally. And that these truths morally bind us to create a workable immigration solution -- founded upon English as the official language of government and patriotic integration as the fundamental model of citizenship for new Americans.
If people want to be highly successful in the United States (legally), they must master English. This is not xenophobic, it is realism and a fact of life. It is what it is. If you do not know English your chances of succeeding in the US are tremendously reduced compared to those who do.
The Vietnamese who came here in the 70's not knowing a word of the language did the hard work--and as a result many have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. So did Cuban Refugees fleeing Castro's tyranny have likewise done what they had to do to ensure they can be successful Americans. So why should we assume that our friends from south of the border (who come here legally) are any less capable of making this step. Why would we believe that their commitment to do so would not make them more committed citizens and more successful? And why in the world are people like Obama pandering to groups like La Raza and LULAC suggesting otherwise?
I am not against learning Spanish, in fact I am learning Spanish. But that should be every citizen's choice. But English is a KEY to success in American. And so any the people who come here and are not pushed to learn English have two strikes against them already.
Our history is full of stories of people who came here, learned English, and become wildly successful. Why would we deny this same opportunity to our incoming immigrants now? And why in the world would we instead want to stress the other 300 million of us having to learn Spanish to accomodate our newest immigrants? Has Obama lost his mind?
I am sure that McCain will not go near this issue. But a reported 84% of the American people favor making English our official language. There are few things we could do for new Spanish-speaking citizens that would be more beneficial for them--and for our society--than seeing to it that English education is: 1) mandatory for citizenship; and 2) readily available to those who truly want to become a part of our great country.