To judge how important assimilation is to senators John McCain (R.- Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.), peruse their immigration bill, now before the Senate. “Assimilation” appears only once in this legislation, and not until the 343rd of 347 pages. “Americanization” never emerges.
Too bad the most sweeping immigration measure since 1986 shortchanges assimilation. Whether America ultimately absorbs 12,000 or all 12 million illegal aliens estimated to live here, it will be better for them and this nation if they speak, study, and vote in English, understand America’s Constitution and political culture, respect our history and civic traditions, and honor our flag and national heroes. Otherwise, bedlam awaits.
McCain-Kennedy does little to forestall such cultural disarray, and it probably exacerbates it.
Unfortunately, as Hudson Institute senior fellow John Fonte told the House Immigration subcommittee May 16, “there are no serious assimilation components to the legislation.” Dual citizenship, naturalized Americans voting here and overseas, non-English classrooms, and multilingual ballots all thrive, despite McCain-Kennedy’s “comprehensive” scope.
“Under this bill, every immigrant and every American citizen is his own little bubble of linguistic entitlement,” says Jim Boulet, Jr., Executive Director of English First. This is so, thanks to President Clinton’s Executive Order 13166. As James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) told the Senate Tuesday, this is “an entitlement for a translator in any language you want other than English…if you are a recipient of federal funds.”
Under E.O. 13166, for instance, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on January 22 mandated language outreach by subsidized-housing providers. HUD, for instance, recognized one housing sponsor for hiring “translators fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Dari, Vietnamese, and Chinese to translate written materials and advertising for the local press in those languages.”
HUD’s regulations state: “No matter how few LEP [limited-English-proficient] persons the recipient is serving, oral interpretation services should be made available in some form.”
McCain-Kennedy would codify E.O. 13166, so only Congress could repeal it. Until then, President Bush unilaterally could cancel Clinton’s executive order. This, too, he has failed to do.
Illegals also could gain amnesty without English proficiency. Up to four years after receiving brand-new, permanently renewable Z (amnesty) Visas, they merely must “demonstrate an attempt to gain an understanding of the English language.” This is like saying that thinking about maybe asking someone out means you are dating. Z-Visa holders can “demonstrate an attempt” through “placement on a waiting list for English classes.” For McCain-Kennedy, waiting equals speaking.
Also under this legislation, the Homeland Security secretary would disseminate amnesty information to illegals “in no fewer than the top five principal languages…spoken by aliens who would qualify for classification under this section, including to television, radio, and print media…”
McCain-Kennedy’s English and assimilation shortcomings should aggravate cultural conservatives, and plenty will annoy most everyone else.
Fiscal conservatives should faint at Heritage Foundation scholar Robert Rector’s estimate that this bill creates “a net cost to taxpayers of $2.3 trillion in retirement-related benefits” for amnestied illegal aliens. One fresh entitlement: Free immigration attorneys for illegal-alien farm workers.
Cops and counterterrorists should worry that McCain-Kennedy requires that eligible illegal aliens receive probationary Z Visas by the “end of the next business day.” Within that deadline, law-enforcement and national-security officials simply cannot isolate innocent aliens from those who aspire to rob, rape, or plant bombs. Alas, there is no single, searchable, international-scoundrels database.
“A one-business-day time limit is madness, particularly if 48,000 aliens applied in a single day,” warns Kris Kobach, counsel under former Attorney General John Ashcroft. “Would 48,000 daily applications be unusual? Try dividing 12 million illegal aliens by 250 business days, if they all applied the first year.”
Americans who want secure borders wonder why the 700-mile southern-frontier-fence Congress authorized last year stretches only 370 miles under McCain-Kennedy.
And liberals fret that this bill’s guest-worker program would depress the wages of low-skilled American citizens. This is a serious, albeit debatable, accusation.
By pushing this bill, John McCain is alienating GOP primary voters. Come 2008, he may become one lonely maverick. Meanwhile, by embracing this legislation, President Bush is smashing his loyal Republican base to smithereens.
McCain-Kennedy is as wildly popular as algebra homework on prom night. Congress should drop kick it into the Rio Grande.
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