Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In an action that can only be construed as pandering to Hispanics, Sen. John McCain unveiled a Spanish version of his campaign Web site - and he did it on Cinco de Mayo day (May 5), the Mexican holiday.

Such obvious attempts by politicians to ingratiate with non-English-speaking ethnic groups have made many Americans wonder why such pandering is necessary since a person needs to be a U.S. citizen before he can vote and he needs to know English to become a U.S. citizen.

But that is a popular misconception. In reality, immigrants are not always required to know English to become U.S. citizens. Over the last few decades, liberals have larded the naturalization process with so many exemptions that today many immigrants are naturalized without an English test.

As a naturalized American who took and easily passed the English and civics tests - the two tests given to most naturalization applicants - I can personally attest to the ridiculous ease of the tests. Any fluent English speaker (even if he is a Third World immigrant such as yours truly) could pass the English test with half his brain tied behind his back.

The civics test covers the very basics of U.S. history and government, with effete questions such as asking to name the first president, or the current governor of your state, or one of your two U.S. senators, etc. (Recently, the government revamped the English and civics tests -but the questions are still very basic, and somewhat sixth-gradish at best.)

Since most immigrants (“green card” holders) are required to live here at least five years before becoming citizens, you would think there should be no exemptions from such basic English and civics knowledge. But no, in this age of liberal victimology, even the naturalization process is viewed as if it were a villain that is victimizing the poor immigrants trying to obtain U.S. citizenship.

So, let’s discuss the exemptions legally available to naturalization applicants. For instance, if someone is over 50 years old and has lived here 20 years, then he is exempt from the English test - and he can take the civics test in his native language.

You would think that if someone has lived here 20 years, then that is all the more reason to refuse such an exemption since he has had ample time to learn English. But no, our government thinks that multicultural sensitivity is more important than common sense.

Furthermore, for anyone over 55 years old and has lived here 15 years, no English is required - and, yes, he can take the civics test in his native language. If he is over 65 and has lived here 20 years, then not only is he exempt from the English test but he is also exempt from the full civics test and only has to answer a few very simple civics questions (in his language, of course). The government bends over backward to accommodate the feeble cognitive abilities of senile immigrants.

In fact, at least once in recent history, Congress has peremptorily exempted a whole class of immigrants from the English requisite at naturalization. In 2000, the Congress passed and then-President Clinton signed into law the Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act, which gave a wholesale exemption to some 45,000 ethnic Hmong immigrants on the grounds that their native language is so incompatible with English that asking them to learn English would be too burdensome. Hmm.

Some people may think that the number of aging immigrants naturalized each year is too insignificant to warrant a critique. Not so. Let us consider the statistics from the most recent year for which detailed naturalization data are publicly available - 2006. (As of this writing, the Department of Homeland Security has not published the data for 2007.) In 2006, the number of immigrants 50 years or older who got U.S. citizenship was 179,088. Nearly 57,000 of them were 65 or older and 16,000 were 75 or older.

Needless to say, such annual numbers, when viewed in the cumulative effect they have over many years, help explain why there are so many non-English-speaking voters in America. Among Hispanics, the largest non-English-speaking minority, 46 percent of naturalized citizens speak very little English or not at all, according to research by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center. Incredibly, 11 percent of naturalized Hispanics speak no English at all. And they are entitled to vote - via bilingual ballots.

In the 2004 election, 2 million votes came from naturalized Hispanics. And that number is expected to be larger in this year’s election. Hence the burgeoning of campaign Web sites in Spanish.

In their quest for votes, America’s politicians have shamelessly sacrificed the fundamental national interest of having one language for everyone. And the longer we continue the present low standards of naturalization, the farther we will be from the goal of one language - English - for everyone.

Ian de Silva is an engineer who has side interests in politics and history

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