A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Monday, June 18, 2007

¡Ay, caramba!

Dennis Baron reports that congress has made English the United States' national language, requiring undocumented workers to "pay fines, go back to their home countries, and learn English before they can re-enter the U.S. legally."

This law (tacked onto the immigration reform bill, as Baron tells us) is as simultaneously mean-spirited and ignorant as I have come to expect right-wing America to be. [edited: the bill actually enjoyed bipartisan support, but the part about language was tacked on by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), and it bespeaks a xenophobia that has become a hallmark of American conservatism.] Large-scale linguistic trends are both robust and radically decentered, and if the U.S. socio-economic climate is such that Spanish is destined to gain an eqaul footing with English--which Baron says is not even close to being the case, with "94% of U.S. residents already [speaking English], and the rest . . . learning it as fast as they can"--then not even the brute force of the law is going to put much of a damper on the process. (Just ask anybody in the undocumented worker-dependent restaurant industry how much immigration laws affect their hiring practices.) To paraphrase the fictional chaotician Ian Malcom, "language finds a way." In fact, about all such a law could do is push immigration further underground, which would actually create even more illegal immigration.

If conservatives really want to keep them furriners out of the U.S., they need only keep doing what they have been doing since Bush took office--grinding away at our civil rights, our rights as workers, and our access to reasonable health care until nobody wants to come anymore.

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