News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Monday, July 16, 2007

"English only" laws are next

Only weeks after the federal fiasco to reach a sane resolution on immigration reform, a new crop of state and local laws have sprung up across the country with their own takes on the issue. Arizona, Oklahoma, and Prince William County Virginia have already tried to fill the void with laws that satisfy the frustrations of their mainstream citizens but will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. In the end, all these laws will accomplish is to alienate the large and growing Latino population, the overwhelming majority of whom are here legally. Sadly, the backlash is far from over.

In a move foreshadowed in my novel America Libre, the growing use of Spanish in many communities will spark another cultural slap down: "English only" laws.

Rather than seeing Spanish used in public as a way to ease assimilation, nativists will lash out against what they perceive as a cultural assault. Ignorant of the lessons of history which show all immigrant groups abandon their native language by the third generation, the cultural hardliners will only fan the embers of discord in an already tense climate.

Who gains by English only laws? Only the egos of those too insecure to realize the true power of the United States. The lesson of history is unmistakable: Immigrants come here to change themselves, not to change the country. Too bad so many native-born citizens have so little faith in their own culture.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez