A Problem For Democrats

The Democratic party may be already starting to hurt itself on immigration issues by this latest example that John Fund writes about today. Both the House and the Senate passed legislation that would shield the Salvation Army specifically and other employers generically from lawsuits over having English language requirements for employees. Nancy Pelosi has agreed to kill that bill after the Hispanic Caucus threatened to block a promised bill that would shield 23 million taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a moderate Republican from Tennessee, is dumbstruck that legislation he views as simple common sense would be blocked. He noted that the full Senate passed his amendment to shield the Salvation Army by 75-19 last month, and the House followed suit with a 218-186 vote just this month. "I cannot imagine that the framers of the 1964 Civil Rights Act intended to say that it's discrimination for a shoe shop owner to say to his or her employee, 'I want you to be able to speak America's common language on the job,' " he told the Senate last Thursday.

But that's exactly what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying to do. In March the EEOC sued the Salvation Army because its thrift store in Framingham, Mass., required its employees to speak English on the job. The requirement was clearly posted and employees were given a year to learn the language. The EEOC claimed the store had fired two Hispanic employees for continuing to speak Spanish on the job. It said that the firings violated the law because the English-only policy was not "relevant" to job performance or safety.

"If it is not relevant, it is discriminatory, it is gratuitous, it is a subterfuge to discriminate against people based on national origin," says Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, one of several Hispanic Democrats in the House who threatened to block Ms. Pelosi's attempts to curtail the Alternative Minimum Tax unless she killed the Alexander amendment.

The confrontation on the night of Nov. 8 was ugly. Members of the Hispanic Caucus initially voted against the rule allowing debate on a tax bill that included the AMT "patch," which for a year would protect some 23 million Americans from being kicked into a higher income tax bracket.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a moderate from Maryland, was beside himself. Congressional Quarterly reports that he jabbed his finger on the House floor at Joe Baca, the California Democrat who chairs the Hispanic Caucus, and yelled, "How dare you destroy this party? This will be the worst loss in 10 years."

In order to head off the Hispanic Caucus threat, Pelosi and Hoyer had to promise to kill the amendment. The insistence on requiring employers to hire people who cannot speak English – and refuse to learn it – is likely to bite the Democrats. Forcing the hiring of non-English speakers puts an insane burden on the employer and is very likely to increase resentment in an electorate that is already very unhappy with Washington's inability to deal with immigration issues – especially illegal immigration issues.

I've mentioned before that my mother's parents were immigrants from Norway. They refused to allow my mother and my uncle to speak Norwegian at home and insisted on speaking English. Partly it was for the good of the children, but it was also for the good of my grandparents, who greatly strengthened their own English language skills as a result. There is nothing wrong with asking people who come here to learn to function here. The actions of the Hispanic Caucus are against the best interests of the people they claim to represent.

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12 Responses to A Problem For Democrats

  1. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    My wife is a legal immigrant from Tanzania who speaks English fluently (it is her third language). The education system in her country is pretty close to dysfunctional, yet she managed to learn English as a secondary school student. When I taught in her country, I learned Swahili and now speak it fluently as well. If I can do it, so can everyone else who lives in a foreign country.

    Contrast that with the racist performance Rep. Charles Gonzalez. Spanish-speaking immigrants are not supposed to adapt to the US – instead, we are to adapt to them! Had I taken the position adopted by Gonzalez and demanded that everyone else that I came in contact with in Tanzania learn English just to suit me, I would have been branded a racist.

    It is time to call politicians like Gonzalez what they are – race-baiting demagogues. It is to the shame of my state of Texas that this guy got elected in the first place.

  2. Philadelphia Steve says:

    John Fund has made a career out of hating anyone from the Democratic party. His “analysis” can be counted upon to reflect, 100%, the Rightwing-most side of Republican Politics (as though there were any other!).

    Can a single “Conservative” remember who is the strongest proponent of these “amnesty” proposals that they hate so much? Hint: He is the current President of the United States.

    Of course, the automatic Conservative “free pass” kicks in whenever “George W. Bush” and “accountability” are used in the same sentence, doesn’t it?

  3. Pingback: Outside The Beltway | OTB

  4. terrence says:

    You are very funny, Philadelphia Steve. You did a good job of making left-wing liberals look like fools. Well, done!

  5. Philadelphia Steve says:

    Re: “You are very funny, Philadelphia Steve. You did a good job of making left-wing liberals look like fools. Well, done!”

    ?

  6. Gaius says:

    Perhaps if you actually read this blog you’d know that criticism of Bush’s position has been constant here. But you merely fly-by when the Blog Report links to drop a comment. I won’t put words in Terrence’s mouth, but perhaps that might be part of what he was referring to, Steve.

  7. NortonPete says:

    This post addresses the right of an employer to require English on the job, I missed the reference to amnesty.
    English is required worldwide for air traffic and general flight communications. That means that in every country an air traffic controller must speak English. So does this violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Worldwide?

  8. Roderick says:

    Gaius sez: Perhaps if you actually read this blog you’d know that criticism of Bush’s position has been constant here.

    Roderick: So if Bush who is de facto leader of the Republican Party is pro-illegal immigrant how is this only an abatross around the Democrats’ neck?

    And since Bush has endorse Guiliani and Guliani has Bush staffers working on his behalf can Guiliani distance himself from Bush’s stance on immigration.

    And then there is McCain who worked on pushing the immigration compromise through the Senate (only to fail). But of course only the Democrats will suffer? Go figure.

  9. martian says:

    In any other (non-English speaking) country in the world, especially Spanish speaking countries, an American who moved to that country to live would be expected to learn the local language in order to survive and be employed. And every person who comes here and refuses to learn English would be the first to demand that the American immigrant to their homeland learn their language. Makes you shake your head a little doesn’t it?

    Refusal to learn the prevalent language in the country where you live, be it America or any other country, is like asking to be a second or third class citizen. America is a nation of immigrants. In my lifetime I have known immigrants from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Russia, The Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, China, Viet Nam, Brazil, Columbia, and France. In all of these cases, those who worked hard to learn English were the people who succeeded and made a good life for themselves here (including my friends from Spanish speaking countries).

    On the other hand, those who refused to learn the language did not do well. I once dated a girl whose parents came here from The Ukraine. Both of her parents absolutely refused to learn English – her father claimed they were too old to learn. Her mother never held a job outside the house and couldn’t even go shopping on her own. The only job her father could get was working in an entry level factory job on the midnight shift where he would not have to do much communicating and there was another employee who also came from The Ukraine but actually took the time and effort to learn English. Neither of her parents ever had a Driver’s License – she had to take them everwhere. They had no social life except to walk to the Ukrainian Club a few blocks from their house.

    It is NOT racism to ask immigrants to learn the language in the country they move to – whether it be the USA or Japan or Outer Mongolia. It is a reasonable expectation that you learn to communicate with your fellow residents in your new home. It is NOT reasonable to emmigrate to anther country and expect your new neighbors to all learn YOUR language! That is the height of ego-centrism.

  10. peteathome says:

    I’m a leftward leaning independent, and even I agree we need to encourage a common language.

    I use to live in L.A. There were entire regions of L.A. where the common spoken language was Spanish. While it worked for the neighborhood stores and local area, I knew those people were trapped in their barrio by their lack of language skills. The schools were trying to allow kids to learn in their native languages in 1st and 2nd grade so that they didn’t get behind in school. Instead, many of these kids were still not proficient in English by 6th grade. Instead, they should have started them in English right away, with after school programs to help them learn English.

    I don’t care if our common language is Spanish, Chinese, or Esperanto – a common language helps unify us as a nation and definitely helps immigrants rise up through society. Since English is by far the most common language used in the USA, I think we should strongly encourage new and potential citizens to learn English as fast as they can.

    However, I don’t think this issue will directly hurt Democrats. If they don’t get the AMT modified, THAT will hurt them. Pocketbook issues always trump other issues.

  11. Steve says:

    I worked a factory job in Chicago to put myself through school. I worked with guys from all over the world. If I remember correctly, there was something like over 80 different languages these guys knew. So tell me, Congressman Gonzalez, how are we supposed to work together if we’re speaking so many different languages? Why is it “racist” for a business to require it’s workers to communicate in one language so that everyone is on the same page?

    Keep it up, Congressman Gonzalez. Us average joes have just about had enough…

  12. fletch says:

    Roderick sez: So if Bush who is de facto leader of the Republican Party is pro-illegal immigrant how is this only an abatross around the Democrats’ neck?

    Scott: Perhaps because a “vast majority” of Republicans in both the House and Senate “repudiated” Bush on “Immigration Reform”, while the Dems in Congress (and the CBC) were actually supporting Bush (on this “Amnesty”) ?

    (BTW– it’s nice to see you here, Roderick… I always enjoy reading your comments at Booker Rising.)

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