the immigrant zone
by J.C Phillips
Two weeks ago, I found myself in Orange County staring into the window of a Cingular phone store. Something seemed a bit off. It took me a moment before I realized the problem I was having was that I couldn’t read any of the signage. It was all printed in Spanish. I then noticed that all of the workers in the store appeared to be Hispanic, as did all of the customers. A few steps further down the strip mall, I came across another Cingular store, this one with English signage. I pinched myself! I had stumbled into the twilight zone.
And then there was last week’s “day without immigrants”.
If dishing out a little economic pain was the goal of Monday’s protest it was an objective failure. The boycott, as large as it was, registered only a blip on the economic radar. Not only didn’t we “Gringos” here in Los Angeles feel it in the pocketbook we experienced free flowing highways and shorter lines in hospital waiting rooms. (Hey, you think we could implore upon the event organizers to have a day of absence, say, once a month?) And how many of us were shopping in the Spanish only Cingular store anyway? The fact is the economic impact was greatest on Latino owned businesses, primarily because Latin immigrants tend to congregate in ethnic enclaves cut off from the larger community by language and culture.
Topping the list of demands made by the protesters is unconditional amnesty for the 11.5 million illegal immigrants currently living in this country. To hear the protestors tell it, they are Americans already. They are deeply involved in pursuit of the American dream – that is they are working hard to provide opportunities for their children -- and by that measure they are due official citizenship recognition.
However, more than the simple fact of being on American soil or working hard must define ones “Americaness”. Americans are bound together by a common belief in the right of all men to create lives of significance for themselves, but they are also bound together by common traditions, values, and language. Being an American means assimilating into a community of others. E Pluribus Unum – from many one; All races, ethnicities and religions coming together within sovereign borders to form one people. We are no longer Mexicans, Nigerians, or Swedes, but Americans.
So, if amnesty is what the marchers truly desire, they may have considered demanding English classes and an end to bilingual documents and signs. Americans would be far more sympathetic to immigrant demands if they believed those flooding our nation came out of a desire to become Americans – to assimilate into our culture, speak our language, obey our laws, adopt our values and traditions. Demonstrators may have also given some thought to demanding tough border enforcement. The road to amnesty is paved with a secure border. Without secure borders, amnesty isn’t worth the paper it will be written on.
Without strict border control amnesty will only mean an increase in illegal immigration. All those new Americans will suddenly find themselves competing for jobs against a flood of new immigrants eager to work for lower wages (and certain that in a few years their unlawful entry will be forgiven). Further the unwillingness of so many to assimilate – to adopt the language and culture of America -- will consign them to low paying, low-skill jobs and close the door to opportunity.
The nightmare of one store for Spanish speakers and another for English speaking customers is what Americans reject. This is the future Americans do not want. And if last week’s immigrant activists were really concerned with America and the lives of those they claim to represent, they would reject it as well.