Friday, September 01, 2006

Forget abortion

The new wedge issue is immigration. And in New Jersey things are going swimmingly as another town looks to make an issue of illegal immigrants and make a stand forEnglish.

"Newton may become the first community in northern New Jersey to crack down on illegal immigration by imposing fines on landlords who rent apartments to undocumented immigrants and businesses that hire them.
The proposal,unveiled earlier this week by Councilman Philip Diglio, also would make
English the official language in the Sussex County town.
Diglio places the blame squarely on the immigrants for the percieved lack of assimilation.
Diglio, whose grandparents came from Italy and Portugal, thinks English-only laws will help with integration.

"The strength of this country was founded by immigrants. They came here and wanted to be Americans, they got legal status as Americans," Diglio said. "Today, we have a group of people who don't want to contribute to society ... It seems they don't want to acclimate themselves."
The problem with this line of thinking is that it's one-sided. Integration is a two-way street. Just as the immigrant is changed by becoming American, Americans are going to be changed by the immigrants.
And the important bit, as I've said elsewhere, is that English-speaking Americans cannot be absolved of responsibility. If you want people to integrate, you have to interact with them. You have to spend time teaching them English, both formally and informally. There is no other way.
So where is the money for English classes? Where are the programs for bringing English speakers and non-English speakers together?
But all that's too complicated. It's much easier to pass a law saying English is the official language and then feel like you've solved the problem.

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