Monday, May 22, 2006

Teddy Roosevelt, meet Bob Menendez

One week ago tonight, President Bush gave a prime-time address on immigration reform. Buried 22 paragraphs into that 26-paragraph speech, the President finally found the magic word: "assimilate." It is here, on the question of assimilation, that the immigration reform debate will be decided.

Am I offended that more than a million people seek entry into the United States every year? No, not at all. I'm proud that the country into which I was lucky enough to be born is still seen around the world as a place of hope and opportunity.

Am I scared that hundreds of thousands of them enter illegally? No, I'm not scared. And I'm not threatened. At least not by the hundreds of thousands who come here illegally for the right to pick lettuce or bus tables on their way to a better life. Because if they do it right, one day soon they won't be picking lettuce and busing tables, they'll be farming their own land or owning their own restaurant.

(Granted, I wish the border were more secure for more mundane reasons -- to wit, the threat that terrorists could find easy entry, and we could be looking at another World Trade Center attack right here in Chicago, or Los Angeles, or another major American city.)

If I'm not offended, and I'm not threatened, what is it about the current immigration debate that gets under my skin?

One word: assimilation.

Actually, it's a few words more -- it's the fact that too many of the new immigrants do NOT want to assimilate. And actually, to get even MORE specific, it's the fact that too many of the leftists who still wield power in the media and political establishment don't want new immigrants to assimilate.

Used to be, you came to America, first thing you did was learn English. Every child of an immigrant from a non-English speaking background knows how hard his/her mother or father pushed him/her to learn to speak and write English properly. Those immigrants came here to build a better life for themselves and their children, and they knew that being able to communicate effectively in America was one of the keys to climbing the socioeconomic ladder. So they pushed their kids hard, in the hopes that their children would have a better life.

Learning English was one of the essential elements of the American melting pot -- a notion of ourselves inscribed on our currency, in the Latin phrase "E pluribus unum" ("Out of many, one").

But somewhere along the way that changed. The melting pot is no longer the metaphor of choice for the left's description of America. Now the preferred metaphor is something they like to call "the cultural mosaic." Apparently, the left likes this metaphor better than the melting pot because the idea of a melting pot presupposes the idea of superiority -- the idea that a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, which apparently is an idea offensive to the left.

America, "better" than other nations? Harumph, says the left. We've got 40 million plus without health care (yes, they say "without health care," when they ought to say "without health insurance," as if not recognizing that there's a big difference between health care and health insurance), too many children are hungry, we work harder and longer than our compatriots in other nations, yada yada yada. America, they believe, is no "better" than anyplace else.


America IS "better" than just about any place I can think of. More importantly for THIS particular discussion, America is better than just about anyplace any immigrant wants to go. How do I know? BECAUSE THEY KEEP COMING HERE. They're not flooding Sweden. They're not going to Egypt. They're certainly not going to Russia. Nope, they keep coming here, and it's a bit more than a tad ironic that their very insistence on coming to America disproves everything the left thinks about America.

In a recent Pew poll, 85 percent of Americans surveyed said they thought English should be recognized as our national language. In that same poll, 77 percent of Hispanics surveyed said ... the same thing, that English should be recognized as the national leanguage of the United States.

But don't tell that to the left, which clings to its moral superiority the way Mike Wallace clings to "60 Minutes" -- as if without it, they'd die.

When, last week, a simple English language amendment was offered to the immigration reform bill now before the Senate, 34 Senate Democrats voted "no."

Bob Menendez of New Jersey was one of those "no" votes.

Bob Menendez of New Jersey is the child of immigrants who came to America from a Spanish-speaking country.

Isn't that a bit odd? Here's a man whose own parents came to America for a better life. Here's a man whose parents, no doubt, pushed him to learn to speak a tongue that was not native to them. He was probably speaking better English by the time he was four than did his parents.

But now, faced with the task of determining for his fellow Americans what will be the best course of action on the question of designating English as the national language of his own country of birth, he votes "no."

It's a shame we can't arrange for time travel. Because I would LOVE to introduce Bob Menendez to Teddy Roosevelt, who said it best:

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against such men because of creed or birthplace origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American."


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