Common Sense On Common Language

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John Fund comments again today on the deal Nancy Pelosi made with the Hispanic Caucus to kill a bipartisan amendment to a funding bill that provides money to FBI, NASA and Justice Department. That amendment would have indemnified the Salvation Army and other employers from efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to penalize them for enforcing English language requirements in the workplace (original post here.). The Hispanic Caucus had refused to vote for a patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax bill if Pelosi didn't kill the amendment. Fund points out the destructiveness of the position taken by the Hispanic Caucus – to Hispanics and other immigrants.

In theory, employers can escape the EEOC's clutches if they can prove their policies are based on grounds of safety or "compelling business necessity." But most companies choose to settle rather than be saddled with the legal bills. Synchro Start Products, a Chicago firm, paid $55,000 to settle an EEOC suit against its English-only policy, which it says it adopted after the use of multiple languages led to miscommunication. When one group of employees speak in a language other workers can't understand, the company said, it's easy for personal misunderstandings to undermine morale. Many companies complain they are in a Catch-22–potentially liable to lawsuits if employees insult each other but facing EEOC action if they pass English-only rules to better supervise those employee comments.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), who authored the now-stalled amendment to prohibit the funding of EEOC lawsuits against English-only rules, is astonished at the opposition he's generated. Rep. Joe Baca (D., Calif.), chair of the Hispanic Caucus, boasted that "there ain't going to be a bill" including the Alexander language because Speaker Pelosi had promised him the conference committee handling the Justice Department's budget would never meet. So Sen. Alexander proposed a compromise, only requiring that Congress be given 30 days notice before the filing of any EEOC lawsuit. "I was turned down flat," he told me. "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."….

….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? 

Locking immigrants into a nether region where they cannot communicate with the rest of the people in the country is a recipe for creating a permanent under-class. It leads to balkanization and fragmentation of the society as a whole. The Hispanic Caucus has not done any favors for Hispanics or other immigrants with this. I disagree with Fund's characterization of people who want English only rules as nativist, however. Some are, but the majority are not. Most Americans are perfectly happy with legal immigrants who want to become Americans. What they are not happy with is an illegal underclass with a different language.

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2 Responses to Common Sense On Common Language

  1. martian says:

    I think it’s really ironic that Rep. Joe Baca and his fellow members of the Hispanic Caucus would not hold their present elected positions if they had not been able to speak English and communicate in that language to their constituents. Nor would they be able to do their jobs in Congress effectively or at all if they didn;t speak English. Yet they want to deny this opportunity to their fellow Hispanics?

    As for not being happy with an illegal underclass with a different language – most Americans (including me) aren’t happy with a LEGAL underclass with a different language. And it doesn’t matter what the language. Spanish speakers are just the most numerous. Most people would be impatient with ANY immigrant who moves here and makes no attempt to learn the language. This is not racism, nativism or any other derogatory label the liberals and the Hispanic Caucus would like to use against us. It is simple human nature. It is human to lack patience with anyone you have to deal with who doesn’t speak your own language in your own country. Go to France, heck go to Quebec Canada and try to communicate with someone outside the tourist industry in English. They will have even less patience than most Americans (I know, I’ve dealt with this many times visiting Montreal).

  2. Gaius says:

    I ran into that in Montreal.

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