October 1995, Volume 1, Number 4
Americanization and English
The Commission on Immigration Reform on September 12 issued its
recommendations on reforming the legal immigration reform system. The
Commission began by saying that the US has been and should continue
to be a country of immigration.
According to the CIR, the melting pot works, in the sense that
Germans and Italians become Americans committed to democratic ideals.
The CIR endorsed "Americanization," or immigrants accepting the core
civic culture of the US, and becoming naturalized US citizens.
In San Francisco, a closely-divided federal appeals court on
October 5 struck down Arizona's English-only law on a 6-5 vote.
Arizona is one of 22 states that has made English the state's
official language, and the Arizona case involved a state insurance
worker who challenged the law because, she said, she had to speak
Spanish to her clients, and she wanted to prepare reports in Spanish
so that clients could understand her decisions.
The majority opinion acknowledged the "importance of establishing
a common bond and a common language [in a] diverse and
pluralistic society," but says that such a society also requires a
"tradition of tolerance."
California approved Prop. 63 in 1986, which called for the
preservation of English as the state's "common language," while
Arizona's initiative was more specific, requiring that state and
local governments "act in English and in no other language."
There are currently five bills in Congress that would make English
the official language of the US and to end public support for
bilingual education. Each of the four bills before the House
Committee on Educational and Economic Opportunity establish English
as the nation's official language.
US English, founded by Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, has over
600,000 members devoted to amending the US Constitution to make
English the official language of the US. According to US English, if
English were the official language, government activities would be
conducted in English, except for the judicial, health, and emergency
services, which could use appropriate languages to carry out their
functions. Some 21 states, and many cities, have made English their
Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole on September 4
announced that he would support proposals to make English the
official language of the US. According to Dole, English is an
important part of the glue that binds Americans together, and those
seeking to become naturalized US citizens should learn English. Dole
also attacked bilingual education, arguing that schools should
conduct regular classes in English.
The governor of Maryland said he will veto a watered-down version
of a bill that would have made English the official language of
Maryland. In vetoing the legislation he said that he felt the measure
would be "punitive" to non-English speaking immigrants. In some rural
areas in the southeast and midwest, it is reported that
English-speaking service providers have been unable to communicate
with the increasingly non-English speaking immigrant clientele.
The Pope released a statement in September 1995 asking residents
to try to understand the circumstances of illegal immigrants.
According to the Pope's statement, "the illegal immigrant comes
before us like that stranger to whom Jesus asks to be recognized," to
be welcomed. The Pope called for international cooperation to foster
political stability and accelerate economic development so that
people are not forced to migrate.
There are an estimated 22 million Hispanic Catholics, and they are
about one-third of the Catholics in the US. About one-fourth of the
Hispanic Catholics were born outside the US.
Claire Cooper, "Judges to reject English-only law," Sacramento
Bee, October 5, 1995; Gustav Niebuhr, "With Every wave of newcomers,
a church more diverse," New York Times, October 3, 1995; Joe Sexton,
"Vibrant Parishes find strength in Diversity," New York Times,
October 3, 1995; "New York's Bilingual 'Prison,' New York Times,
September 21, 1995. Barbara Jordan, "The Americanization Ideal," New
York Times, September 11, 1995. Pam Belluck, "Experiment in Teaching
the immigrant student," New York Times, September 7, 1995. "Dole:
English must be Official US Language," Sacramento Bee, September 5,
1995; "Arizona's official English law will be reheard by court,"
Business Wire, May 17, 1995.