The Corner

When in Rome . . .

John Fonte’s Town Hall piece on Americanization (also linked in the NRO Web Briefing) points to the ironic fact that New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently ordered all state agencies to provide their documents in six foreign languages — including Italian! So Cuomo’s immigrant grandparents and his Italian-speaking father (Gov. Mario Cuomo) were able to learn English, but today’s Italian immigrants aren’t? Ridiculous.

When you bring up the language issue, the open-borders/ethnic-chauvinist crowd always counters, with a certain weary condescension, that of course immigrants should learn English, the language of commerce and success in the wider world. In other words, English is of great practical importance. That’s true, obviously, and if this were Poland or Indonesia, that’s all there’d be to it. But the reason the language question (and Americanization in general) is so politically charged is that there’s disagreement over the normative question: Aside from the practical benefits, are newcomers morally obliged to learn our language, since they have come to live among us? Patriots answer “yes,” post-Americans, “no”.

This should be the kind of issue that unites different people on the right; as Fonte puts it:

While conservatives disagree on immigration specifics, we should all be able to agree on a patriotic assimilation policy. Conservatives should unite to dismantle the anti-Americanization barriers that liberals (like Cuomo) have erected by ending bi-lingual education, government multilingualism, voting in foreign languages, and immigrant dual citizenship that violates the spirit of the oath of allegiance and permits voting in foreign countries and serving in foreign parliaments.

I’m afraid, though, that for some people on the right, support for unlimited immigration takes precedence over support for Americanization. This leads them, when push comes to shove, to oppose such assimilationist measures as the price of maintaining their alliance with their open-borders brethren on the left.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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