How Not to Make an American
Why does McCain-Kennedy do so little to encourage assimilation?


Deroy Murdock

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 shows up.

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.

“Patriotic assimilation is a necessary component of any successful immigration policy,” Hudson Institute senior fellow John Fonte told the House Immigration subcommittee on May 16. Unfortunately, “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 the McCain-Kennedy bill’s “comprehensive” scope.

Rather than lead aliens toward English — this multi-ethnic country’s common tongue and the lingua franca of global commerce — McCain-Kennedy marches in reverse.

“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, or the language of your choice, if you are a recipient of federal funds.”

As just one instance of such nonsense, under E.O. 13166 the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development on January 22 mandated language outreach by subsidized-housing providers. HUD commended 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 enshrine E.O. 13166 in federal law, where 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 two 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, as determined by the Secretary in his discretion, spoken by aliens who would qualify for classification under this section, including to television, radio, and print media to which such aliens would have access.”

“Can you think of anything that would breed burning resentment of illegal immigrants more than advertisements in foreign languages begging them to apply for amnesty?” Boulet wonders.

McCain-Kennedy’s English and assimilation shortcomings should aggravate cultural conservatives. But they will not be alone. This bill should annoy almost 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 will be unable to isolate innocent aliens from those who aspire to rob, rape, or plant bombs. Inconveniently enough, 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 University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Kris Kobach, a one-time counsel to 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 — of which only 12 miles have been built to date — stretches only 370 miles under McCain-Kennedy.

Good government types might need smelling salts after reading legal language as asphyxiating as that on page 284:

Sec. 601 (d)(2)(A)(ii) the Secretary may not waive —
(I) subparagraph (A), (B), (C), (D)(ii), (E), (F), (G), (H), or (I) of section
212(a) (2) of the Act (relating to criminals);
(II) section 212(a)(3) of the Act (relating to security and related grounds);
(iii) with respect to an application for Z nonimmigrant status, section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Act;
(IV) paragraph (6)(A)(i) of section 212(a) of the Act (with respect to any
entries occurring on or after January 1, 2007);
(V) section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(II);
(VI) subparagraph (A), (C), or (D) of section 212(a)(10) of the Act (relating to polygamists, child abductors, and unlawful voters);

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.