“I really believe this amendment is racist.” These were the words of Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada spoken just minutes before 63 senators including 11 members of his own party voted for the measure. The target of Reid’s attack: an amendment to the Senate immigration bill by Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) that declared English the “national language” of the United States.
After murmurs of disapproval greeted his words, Reid hastened to say that he didn’t mean to imply that Inhofe was a racist. But Reid didn’t back down from his characterization of the national language amendment itself.
Is it racist to have an official language? That would be news to 52 nations located mostly in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean that already have made English their official language, in addition to 27 states including heavily immigrant California. The truth is that in today’s world there is no correlation between the language someone speaks and the color of their skin.
Reid knows that. So why did he decide to resort to the rhetorical equivalent of a neutron bomb to try and derail the Inhofe English amendment?
Two reasons stand out: First when it comes to immigration policy, Reid takes his marching orders from radical Hispanic activists and open border groups like the National Council of La Raza. Why? Reid now feels guilty and politically vulnerable over the fact that he sponsored very restrictive immigration legislation in the early 1990s.
Reid knows the disproportionate power radical Hispanic activists wield within the Democratic Party. So long ago he disavowed his one-time views on immigration and came to terms with the activists to gain their acquiescence for his climb to leadership.
Thus the recent revelation that Reid had once championed a Proposition 187-style immigration bill received barely a whisper of condemnation from the activists. They saw no reason to launch the kind of smear attack they would have unleashed against someone not totally in their pocket.
The second reason has to do with the ‘multicultural agenda’ of the activist groups themselves. Census data shows that learning to speak fluent English is one almost foolproof way new immigrants can boost their earning power in the U.S. and have the chance to realize the American dream.
But English-speaking immigrants are far more likely to assimilate, make their own political decisions, and over time come to see themselves as Americans. This is anathema to Marxist-leaning academics as well as Mexican-American extremists dreaming of “La Reconquista.”
What they want from repeated amnesties and never ending waves of illegal immigration is the creation of a linguistically isolated, alienated underclass that can be imbued with grievances and mobilized for political and social revolution like the mobs of Muslim youths that rampaged in dozens of French cities this spring.
In their view mass immigration is a policy failure if it does not ultimately produce a disaffected underclass. Thus they are vehemently opposed to any policy that promotes “Melting Pot” style assimilation, the most important of which is expecting new immigrants to learn English.
And Inhofe’s amendment did exactly that. In addition to declaring English the national language, the amendment stipulated that any formerly illegal alien who wanted to pursue citizenship had to demonstrate the ability to speak English, and not just the intention to learn English by enrolling in a class as called for in the immigration bill.
The amendment also stated no one had a right to government services in any language other than English unless specifically authorized by law. That provision threatened to put an end to the illegitimate, widespread efforts of federal bureaucrats to force government agencies to provide their services in foreign languages—especially in Spanish.
But Reid and his Reconquista allies can’t disclose the real reasons for their hatred of the Inhofe amendment. After all, a March 2006 Zogby poll commissioned by ProEnglish found an overwhelming 84% of likely voters, including 82% of Democratic voters, favor making English our official language.
So, in a carefully premeditated move, Reid played the race card.
In the end it wasn’t enough. But Reid and his ideological allies will use the same racist smear tactics to try and derail any recognition of English as our official language that might emerge in a final immigration bill because for them, and for us, the stakes are huge.