It’s a muggy Tuesday night, and Krikorian is steering his Toyota Prius into the parking lot of a dreary office building in Falls Church. The man behind the wheel of the hybrid vehicle is a “crunchy conservative” who says he sometimes pops into Edible Arrangements to collect bags of melon rinds or Starbucks for loads of coffee grounds to replenish his compost pile.
In the building’s hallway, a group of middle-aged men and women — all immigrants — file toward the elevator. They’ve just finished a citizenship class sponsored by Catholic Charities for green-card holders who want to prepare for the civics test they must take to become citizens. Krikorian will be the instructor for the class that starts in a few minutes. This has been his Tuesday night routine for about 1½ years, he says.
On the subject of immigration, Krikorian frets about almost everything, but little seems to animate him as much as his concerns about multiculturalism and his contention that “Spanish-speaking people” have “the potential to create an alternative mainstream” in the United States. “A lot of the immigration pushers don’t like America the way it is,” he says. “They want to change it.”
In a spare conference room, four men settle into plastic chairs before Krikorian. They’re Latinos — Bolivians and Salvadorans. “No, no, no,” he says with a smile when two of the men start speaking Spanish to each other. No Spanish allowed in class.
“Why do people come to America?” he asks the class.
“Come on, why do people come to America? You know it,” he urges.
“Freedom?” a Bolivian construction worker suggests.
When the men answer tough questions, Krikorian hands them little American flags.
Krikorian, whose birthday is Flag Day, once said the purpose of immigration was to Americanize people. On this night, in this conference room with scuff marks on the walls, he seems content in the belief that he is doing just that: making new Americans.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Mark has become one of the most influential and consequential voices in the immigration debate.