The nativists at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a key component of the Tanton network, have launched another attack on immigrants and their families in a new “study” that exposes what is for them a startling revelation: Some people in the United States are bilingual.
Apparently, CIS believes they have stumbled up a sinister plot to destroy America because immigrants speak English at school and work — but at night, when they go home, they speak in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Korean and Arabic. It’s an “Attack of the Bilingual Children,” and it’s happening right under our noses.
And it’s not just immigrants who are learning to speak multiple languages: even native-born Americans are speaking foreign languages at record rates. Bilingualism is threatening our national myopathy and exposing us to realities outside our borders, causing us to care about people and do business in other countries.
It helpfully identifies the number of people in America speaking the languages of Pakistan and the Philippines–to play on fears of terrorism–and sounds the alarm bell that bilingualism is not just happening in California and New York but in the rest of the U.S. as well. Bilingual children can now be found in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska, Delaware, Kansas, Utah, Minnesota, Idaho, and the rest of the United States. There could be one in your neighborhood, or even right next door!
The other “alarming” fact CIS exposes is that immigrants who are born and raised in other countries do not always show up at our doors speaking perfect English. They have to learn it, and some people struggle with learning a new language as an adult. Even Mark Krikorian, the head of CIS, has had some trouble pronouncing surnames in Spanish.
CIS seems to believe that speaking more than one language, or attempting to learn English without fully mastering it, is destroying the fabric of our nation. This is a dark and pessimistic view of America, and one that I think fewer and fewer Americans actually hold.
MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart recently addressed this issue after he was attacked for being for speaking Spanish by radio host Laura Ingraham, who has been aggessively anti-immigrant for years. Diaz-Balart offered a response:
In life, it’s important to know what parts to accent, and when. Recently, a radio host attacked me for speaking Spanish on my English-language television show on msnbc. This person was offended that I used Spanish when interviewing an undocumented immigrant mother from Mexico who is fighting to avoid deportation.
After 30 years in television, I’m used to criticism, and I didn’t let the negative comments affect me. What I didn’t expect was the reaction to the attack: tens of thousands of people expressed their outrage that someone in the 21st Century would publicly mock a person for speaking two languages fluently and giving a voice to immigrants.
That’s the part I want to accent. Not the ghosts of the past, which can only frighten us if we let them, but the present, and the millions of us in the United States who know that belonging to two cultures is a privilege.
There are many benefits of being bilingual. It expands our perspectives, enhances our business opportunities, and may even make us smarter. There’s growing evidence that speaking more than one language fluently can keep our minds sharper, longer.
As Diaz-Balart wrote, being bilingual is a privilege. And, a valuable skill. But you won’t find this information in the CIS “report.” Their agenda isn’t driven by facts, but fear.