Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Be All End All Solution to Illegal Immigration

In my neck of the woods, illegal immigration from points south of the border can be a much discussed topic. Congress tried to tackle immigration recently, and failed miserably. So here's my plan to solve it once and for all.

Learn Spanish.

Now don't freak out. I'm not saying "Mexifornia" is going to take over the rest of the country, nor am I arguing that you give up English or Americanism or any other such thing.

The "problem", as I see it, with illegal, southern immigration is that a second culture, a second country really, has and is being formed. When I go to the grocery store, I watch people. I watch as English speakers and Spanish speakers self-segregate. They don't speak to each other, they hardly look at each other. There may be a furtive smile, or a nod of the head as they pass in the aisle, but no more open communication than that occurs. And that's stupid.

I speak Spanish. When a native Spanish speaker finds out that I speak, their entire countenance changes. They smile. They move a little closer and ask me how I learned. I can sense as they gauge how fast they can speak and still have me understand. I love seeing the question in their face as they realize I am speaking a form of Spanish called Castellano, where the "y" and the "ll" make a "sh" sound. Generally they will compliment me on how I speak, but mostly just that I speak. An instant bond is formed.

That bond comes about because of our common language. This is the bond that lessens the impact of that "second country". It does away with the furtive smiles and nods of the head. It is the bond that creates a community.

8 comments:

Ashlee said...

Though I do think it great that people learn a second language, my feeling is that perhaps they should learn english. We are in America, where the language spoken is english. If they would like to live here with us they need to acclimate. Understandably, this will be hard for them, but it would be hard for me to learn Spanish as well. I know though, that if I went to any other country, I would have to take a little book with me that told me how to say, "Where is the bathroom?" in that language.

Bronco P3t3 said...

I totally agree. I learned Spanish as well during a two year stint in southern CA. When you speak Spanish to someone not only is there that instant bond of language, but also of understanding that you can both understand and nothing (or at least less) will be lost in the conversation.

Anonymous said...

As ablond, blue eyed son of Spanish immigrants I often encounter the same thing when I open my mouth to chat with hispanics. Nevertheless, I speak perfect English. I am a Citizen of the USA, I don't fly the Spanish orBasque flag I fly Old Glory. Immigrants need to become Americans. PERIOD.

Democracy Lover said...

Ever influx of immigrants from non-English speaking nations has spent most of its first generation in America speaking their native tongue.

New York was once home to Yiddish-speaking enclaves, Italian-speaking neighborhoods, and today you will find Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, Somali, and Creole and Hindi-speaking neighborhoods. Each of these groups has brought something special to our nation and we are richer for their presence. There is no reason to believe the Hispanic immigrants are any different.

Cameron said...

Ashlee, latino immigrants should absolutely learn English. But I think the best way to help them acclimate to their new country is to communicate with them. It is almost impossible to be friends with someone when you don't speak a common language.

Bronco, I agree wholeheartedly. Understanding is imperative.

Anon, I'll echo what I wrote to Ashlee. I think the best way to help immigrants become Americans is to be able to communicate with them.

DL, I understand what you're saying, and there is much to value in immigrants keeping their heritage and sharing it with those of us that've been here a few generations. However, the enclaves and neighborhoods of which you speak is not something I agree with. It's that self-segregating I wrote about. There has got to be more reaching out.

Democracy Lover said...

It is perfectly natural for groups that differ from the majority population to seek to segregate themselves to preserve their culture. It has been true, as I pointed out, of every major ethnic group that has immigrated to the US. It is also true of the LDS church, which segregated itself from the rest of the population in the 19th century. Obviously they were escaping persecution, but in many cases, minority groups have experienced similar hostility from their neighbors.

Reaching out is indeed the answer, but it is the majority who should reach out, not the minority. It is we who are to be their neighbor, not they who are befriend us.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Sadly, all the Spanish people I have run into become angry and aggressive when you don't speak Spanish to them. If I went to their country I would expect to their language. If they want to live here, then the must learn English and become Americans through and through. Holding on to the thought of reclaiming American and expanding Mexico irritates me to know end.

I can't go to the drive through of some of my favorite restaurants because the people running the window don't speak English. Hence I had to stop going there.

Everywhere I turn we must bow to, adjust or adhere to their beliefs. This is America. This is our country. If they want to live here they need to become American, English and all.

I used to be much kinder about this until the abuse became so high.

UtahTeacher said...

I've been reading through your posts and loved this one! An individual learning Spanish does not threaten our culture...it only strengthens both society and the individual. Plus, it's an attainable way to bridge the very real cultural divide.

The comments on your post show both what I love and what I dislike about the state. I meet and talk with dozens of Latino families at school and in their homes each year. They are invariably respectful and apologetic when they think I don't speak Spanish. You described very well the warm reaction when they discover I speak Spanish.

Talk of being aggressively forced to "give in" to their culture comes off as seeing what you want to see based on a few experiences. They suffer from the same percentage of jerks per capita as white America, but the normal families populating our state are not plotting a return to Mexico. They're worrying about work and how to help their kids in a foreign education system.