California's Simon Promotes Citizenship Education for Immigrants

The largest problem facing immigrants today is a lack of Americanism and assimilation, said Bill Simon, who dealt with this issue while running for governor of California in 2002.

“There are disturbing signs now that here in America, difference and separateness is becoming more pronounced than harmony and unity,” he said at a Heritage Foundation lecture, “On Becoming American: Reasserting Citizenship in the Immigration Debate,” held Wednesday.

Simon, a financer and co-chairman of the private investment firm William E. Simon and Sons, said he believes “this issue goes to the very heart of American identity,” and that immigration has been seriously “miscast” by both liberals and conservatives.

“Unguarded liberal support for immigration and diversity, and in my conservative friends’ circles, advocacy only for tighter controls, both ignore the central importance of citizenship education and the broader issue of national identity and unity,” Simon said.

To solve these problems, Simon proposed that citizenship education, which is crucial for our nationhood, must be clearly defined and will unite our country more.

Simon noted that the debate focuses too much today on “fake documents, welfare cost, non-citizen jail populations, etc.” He recognized that these are important problems, but “pale beside the issue of nationhood.”

“The United States will never be stronger and more united in how it answers the question of diversity,” he said.

Simon said the fundamental question surrounding immigration is, “How do people from different nations, who speak different languages, worship differently and practice different social customs settle in the same geographical region and live under the same political authority without turbulence and strife?”

He responded, “Our answer historically is to Americanize them. In other words, to integrate them and create a new national identity by respecting differences yes, but by melting others and transforming many people into one nation. Our goal must be to have people become Americans.”