May 19, 2006
In a bold move aimed at asserting our nation's cultural identity, the United States Senate included a provision mandating that prospective immigrants learn English. See Washington Post. I used to oppose the movement to make English the official U.S. language, thinking that imposing it was contrary to our free, pluralistic heritage. In fact, I argued about this with a guy whose family came here from Cuba that I knew at U.Va. Suffice it to say that I have come around to his way of thinking in recent years. Nevertheless, the Senate measure reeks of symbolism, concealing the overall weak substance of Senate's immigration bill as it now stands. The English-language provision might carry a little more meaning if the existing laws mandating bilingual education and public signs were repealed. Otherwise, it's like one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator.
Objections to this measure raised by Senators Kennedy and Reid were utterly preposterous, as usual. I do take exception, however, to the argument that learning English is the key to success in this country. In fact, millions of immigrants enjoy a great deal of economic success without speaking anything more than rudimentary English. What many people do not realize is that the various immigrant communities are effectively "ghettoized," with members of each respective language group dealing primarily with each other, rather than the mainstream business sector. That is one more way that the current wave of immigration differs radically from past waves in our history.
* For you folks in Rio Linda, that means, "You have to speak English, dammit!"
Delegate Steve Landes objects to the secretive process by which the Augusta County Board is paving the way for industrial development near the regional airport at Weyer's Cave, which is part of his district. As for the specific proposal, he says "the size of the project is inappropriate." As a solid pro-business Republican, his opinion in this matter ought to carry a lot of weight. There are also concerns that a large factory would cause exceesive pollution runoff, and the Shenandoah River is already under severe environmental stress, as witnessed by the fish kill last summer. See the Staunton News Leader and my May 15 post. We are fortunate to have far-sighted public officials who recognize the priceless value of the fresh air and verdant pastures in the Shenandoah Valley. You don't have to be a counterculture Luddite to realize that "You don't know what you've got till it's gone."