Bush administration steers immigrants away from English

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri May 19 12:42:00 UTC 2006

>>From Scripps Howard News Service

Bush administration steers immigrants away from English

Scripps Howard News Service

"The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into
our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans," President Bush
declared Monday in his Oval Office address on immigration reform. "English
allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery, from
cleaning offices to running offices, from a life of low-paying jobs to a
diploma, a career and a home of their own." As the son of legal Costa
Rican immigrants whose mother learned English, taught in the Los Angeles
City Schools and earned a master's degree from Pepperdine University, I
found the president's words pertinent, touching and heartwarming.

How crushing, then, to discover Bush's remarks at jarring variance with
federal policy. Rather than persuade immigrants to speak English and
flourish _ as have my parents, to their children's ultimate benefit _ the
Bush administration actively steers immigrants away from English while
actually prosecuting those who expect immigrants to speak America's (and
Earth's) lingua franca. From ballot boxes to hospitals, workplaces and
even the Internet, Bush's words and deeds are perpendicular to each other:
_ The administration aggressively promotes multilingual voting. "The Civil
Rights Division has made the vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights
Act's language-minority requirements one of its primary missions," Rena
Comisac, principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights,
told the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on May 4.

"Since 2001, this administration has filed more minority-language cases
under sections 4 and 203 than in the entire previous 26 years in which
these provisions have been applicable," Comisac bragged. But DOJ will not
rest! "And the pace is accelerating," Comisac continued.  "The enforcement
actions include cases in Florida, California, Massachusetts, New York,
Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Among these cases were the first suits
ever filed under section 203 to protect Filipino and Vietnamese voters,"
who vote in their native languages. The administration supports
legislation to extend multilingual voting through 2031.

Orange County, Calif., Supervisor Chris Norby testified at this hearing
that, under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he already "must provide
translations in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean." Worse, he
warned, "If these standards are left unchanged, after the 2010 Census, my
county could be required to print ballots in Tagalog, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu
and Farsi, depending on future immigration patterns." _ Bush reaffirmed
President Bill Clinton's executive order that medical centers that accept
federal money must provide free translators to foreign-language speakers.
Noncompliance can constitute "national origin"  discrimination under the
1964 Civil Rights Act. It is expensive and cumbersome for health
facilities that receive, say, Medicare reimbursements, to offer
complimentary interpreters to non-English-speaking patients. Even if their
relatives can handle such needs, federal bureaucrats can make providers
furnish translators gratis and file discrimination charges against those
who don't.

_ Bush's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last Sept. 21 sued the
Spring Sheet Metal Company in Rochester, N.Y., for $50,000 in damages,
plus back wages and pain-and-suffering compensation, for a Cuban-born
ex-employee. He screamed "Discrimination!" after his dismissal for
speaking Spanish at work. The firm argues that its English-only policy
helps laborers prevent accidents in a dynamic environment full of sharp,
swiftly moving steel objects.

_ Bush's hypocrisy is most vivid on his own Web site, WhiteHouse.gov.
Click the "Espanol" button and read what he did today in Spanish. What
incentive does this give Hispanic immigrants to learn English? Ninguno.
None whatsoever.

_ Bilingual-education reform shows the only progress. The Heritage
Foundation reports that relevant outlays have soared from $410 million in
fiscal year 2001 to $816 million in FY 2006, a fearsome 99 percent
increase. However, in 2002, the responsible unit's name changed from the
Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs to today's
Office of English Language Acquisition. "No Child Left Behind is putting
pressure on local school districts to abandon failed bilingual education
programs in favor of English immersion," says Ben Piper of Pro-English

Step two in stopping America's sprint up the Tower of Babel is to scrap
divisive multilingualism and make government conduct official domestic
business in English, with limited, commonsense exceptions (e.g.,
broadcasting Spanish-language tornado warnings and defending foreign
criminal suspects in their native tongues).

Step one is for Bush to follow his assimilationist rhetoric and speak
English out of just one side of his mouth.

(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard
News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research
Foundation in Arlington, Va.)




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