There is an
immigration reform site that posed some interesting questions about the impact of immigrants - like myself - on America. In the case of this article
, it's a case of the impact on America as an idea. Perhaps I should take measure of my own impact!
The civic involvement upon which our free society is founded is weakened:
"Inability to speak English impairs the capacity of a citizen to digest political speech, to serve on juries, to participate in judicial proceedings, to serve in the armed forces, and to participate in a military mobilization. From the viewpoint of society, the fact that some citizens will escape the obligations and miss the opportunities of America will only enhance the prospect for isolation and ethnic strife."
My ability to speak English is probably somewhat impeded by the fact that I use British style U's in words. When I speak to friends in the US about my neighbours
, they grow puzzled. "What did he say? Something about fuzzy wiffle sticks?". I must always interject: "No my weak-beer drinking American friends, I mean neighbors
!". We then share a hearty laugh about my strange outlander ways, and how Canada was so neglectful in not joining in the recent Iraq war. I was hard pressed to think of a war Canada had entered where we ended up waiting for America to join us, as my memory only goes back to 1946. I would think, speaking of military mobilization, that my inability to shoot a gun, to run more than a few feet, and how bad I look in camouflage would stop me being mobilized more than my extra U's. But let us continue.
Business and social transaction costs rise, as time, effort, and money are spent overcoming language and cultural barriers. Communication becomes difficult, often due to language barriers.
"But as more and more commerce is fouled by fast-food clerks who mistake orders, taxicabs drivers who misunderstand directions and telemarketers who canít explain why they called, sociologists and consumer behaviorists detect a palpable, collective complaint thatís evolved into one of the most politically incorrect questions of the í90s: Canít anyone here speak English? ... Poor English skills among foreign-born residents cost more than $175 billion a year in lost productivity, wages, tax revenue and unemployment compensation, says Ohio University economist Lowell Gallaway."
It's sadly true. Most of the time when I go the drive-through, my oddly Canadian way of speaking makes me unable to understand the US Citizens manning the registers, as they ask me "Glurph nick fries fladda daada?".
Language aside, cultural differences alone can create problems. In November 1996, an Iraqi immigrant was jailed in Nebraska for forcing his 13- and 14-year-old daughters to marry men more than twice their age, who were also jailed for statutory rape. The men explained that they were following the tradition of their country and did not understand our governmentís reaction.5
As a natural result of cultural conflict, ethnic strife and separatism grow:
"American secessions have rarely been viewed with alarm [but] in the 1990s...we are more inclined to consider them a serious threat to national unity, especially since that unity is being stretched to the breaking point by ethnic revanchiste movements fueled by Third World immigration. ... In any major city, the peace is disturbed by Latino, black, and Asian nationalist gangs, which in some cases are only the shock troops of ethnic movements seeking the racial dismemberment of the United States. In refusing to control immigration, the Federal Government is writing a script for ethnic civil war. Why?'
Just this past fall, I tried to force my 30-something brothers-in-law to play football using only 3 downs (as in Canada is a tradition). The authorities thankfully saved them from such an ignoble fate. Although I could not be part of a Latin, black or Asian nationalist group. Thankfully, there are no dangerous groups composed of white people.
Sometimes this ethnic separatism is clear and overt:
'A peaceful mass of people, hardworking, carries out slowly and patiently an unstoppable invasion, the most important in human history. ... The territory lost in the 19th century by Mexico ...seems to be restoring itself through a humble people who go on settling various zones that were once ours on the old maps. Land, under any concept of possession, ends up in the hands of those who deserve it.'
"Aztlan is a country with no borders and no government, but it has a militant student movement with big plans. Some of the activists dream of the day when they can 'liberate' a large portion of the southwestern United States, which they consider to have been stolen by gringos, and raise their own flag over it.
I don't want to give away any secrets, but there just may be a secret movement amongst Nova Scotians living in America to make parts of Louisiana whole with Acadia again. Part of the desire to annex is we hear they have great food, and we've gotten tired of Scottish fare alone back home. Don't say we didn't warn you. I think the Nova Scotian threat is every bit as dangerous as the Aztlan movement.
They are also nervous about other ideas that immigrants may harbor:
Sometimes separatism takes other forms, such as demands for ethnic representation, separatist studies, or special status and treatment:
"We submit the following measures:
* create a 100 mile free labor zone from the border;
* illegal aliens should have access to public health care and benefits that are culturally sensitive and respectful of language difference;
* legislation be enacted that mandates institutions of higher learning to incorporate into their curriculum courses which reflect and promote cultural diversity and give full credit for immigrant contributions to this nation.
* decrease the residency requirement for naturalization from five years to one year administer citizenship exams in the applicantís native language;
* increase in the visa quota for Mexico and Latin American countries pass legislation that will afford voting rights to all immigrants in certain nonfederal elections that affirmative action be used so that the INS staff at all levels reflects the service population;"
I take issue with point three. Schools should not be made to "give full credit for immigrant contributions to this nation". I think we should recognize anyone whose forbears were here after 1492, but not before, up to 1910, but not after, and realize they and they alone are responsible for everything good in the country. Any reference to events before 1492 should be relegated to elementary school musicals on Thanksgiving.
'Scratch most nationalist movements and you find a linguistic grievance. ... Language is a convenient surrogate for monolinguistic claims that are often awkward to articulate, for they amount to a demand for more political and economic power'
Very awkward to articulate indeed. It's too bad other places in the world, like Europe and Canada, can't be more flexible by having their kids speak many languages, instead relegating them to European Languages and Canadian, which is hard to speak without imagining you are chewing on some back bacon.
They sum up:
While there are many things that could be done to encourage assimilation in the United States, none can be effective as long as we continue to admit 900,000 immigrants a year. Only by reducing the level of immigration to more traditional levels (say, to below 200,000) can we stanch the contribution of immigration to ethnic separatism in the United States.
Let's just hope no one proposes we go back to pre-1492 levels, which having lasted longer are even more traditional. My favourite form of argument to hear is that something is traditional, because there's no end to the traditions you can find if you go back far enough. So I've learned a lot from this site...immigrants such as me are scary creatures, speaking in odd tongues, proposing to annex whole swaths of land and overwhelm the culture and economy, perhaps even passing out smallpox-infested blankets to unsuspecting Real Americans (© 2005). For now, Canadians in America will have to settle for subtle takeovers (Lorne Greene, Michael J. Fox, Celine Dion etc). Only in America!