Backers of the immigration bill under consideration in the Senate say the legislation encourages illegal aliens to learn English, but that's apparently not so. They've been running ads on conservative talk radio programs insisting that the illegals "must learn English" as a condition of legalization.
The usual suspects, including a group called Americans for a Conservative Direction, backed by establishment Republicans and liberal Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, are peddling this dubious claim. Most backers of immigration reform have opposed efforts to designate English as the official language. These include President Obama. Earlier this month he used his weekly radio address to claim the immigration reform bill "would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are in this country illegally — a pathway that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty."
We're sure he's serious about the "tax" part, but as Breitbart's Matthew Boyle notes, immigrants are supposed to learn English already under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Gang of Eight bill actually waters down existing requirements by allowing illegals to qualify for "learning English" status if they sign up for a course, regardless of whether they actually take it.
Even if the Gang were serious about the language requirement, it poses a serious logistical challenge. The 11 million immigrants who would get amnesty aren't all coming from south of the border. They're from all over the world, meaning language instruction would be needed for more than merely Spanish speakers. In Fairfax County, Va., for example, 44 percent of all elementary school students speak one of a hundred other languages at home. Bringing the entire set of illegals up to fluency in English would require the hiring of thousands of teachers of English as a second language at a cost of millions of dollars.
That's only the beginning of the new costs, according to the Arlington, Va.-based English-advocacy group ProEnglish. The group notes that in addition to watering down the learning requirements, there's the bill for translating documents and forms and providing interpreters for the influx of applicants. "For at least 10 years, and perhaps for their entire lives," notes Bob Vandervoort, the ProEnglish executive director, "this huge new group of predominantly non-English-speaking, former illegal immigrants will create a huge new demand for costly government services in their native language, further exacerbating the dangerous and growing division of the United States into separate cultural and linguistic communities. This would be an unprecedented calamity for our nation's unity."
The fatal flaw in the Gang of Eight plan is, in fact, its lack of anything encouraging unity; assimilation is an afterthought. Any real reform of the immigration system must take us back to the day we welcomed immigrants and encouraged them to learn our language, our history, our traditions and our culture so they could become independent Americans, rather than wards dependent on the state.
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