Friday, April 30, 2010

Linguistic Nonsense

The Daily D’s opinion page is hit or miss. Some days I’ll read a well thought out, eloquent piece. The past two days do not fall into that category.

Yesterday I found myself reading the opinion column by Julian Sarkar ’13 titled Press One for Bigot and repressing the urge to close the Firefox window. The whole article is full of nonsense, so it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s begin with the thrust of Sarkar’s piece: that English only movements are bad and that having laws on the books making English the official language of the United States is somehow bigoted (fun fact: New Hampshire a law making it the official state language, as do Arizona and Alabama). And, according to Sarkar, making English the official language of the United States will somehow trample our First Amendment rights and, “deter Americans from speaking any language other than English for fear of police action.” Esto es estúpido. Folks protesting in the Arizona capital certainly didn’t seem to be afraid of it, though it appears some of the protesters missed the “pretend you’re a patriotic American” memo. Oops.

To prove that such legislation would lead to persecution, Sarkar gives an example of a teacher who struck a student when the child spoke Spanish. Sarkar neglects to mention the teacher was placed on leave for a year, then fired as a result of the incident. The second example involved a high school student in Kansas who was suspended by his principal after being overheard saying “no problema” in the hallway. The school district reinstated him within hours of the incident and apologized to the family. The family promptly sued. I wasn’t able to find any news on what eventually happened to the kid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the knuckleheaded principal was fired for her incompetence or if the family ended up with a nice wad of cash. If this qualifies as "persecution," then what do we call massacres in Darfur or Bosnian ethnic cleansing?

Sarkar then goes meandering for the next couple of paragraphs, throwing out several red herrings along the way. Alabama comes from a Muskogean word, yes, but so what? People in Alabama should speak Muskogean? Great, but that hasn’t stopped people in Mexico from speaking Spanish in Teotihuacán, a city that gets its name from, according to Wikipedia, an Aztecan language. And, for what it’s worth, the Chickasaw Times, a paper I subscribe to, is published in English. What about the costs of multilingual printing, which Sarkar muses “are hardly significant”? Well, in 2002, the California Department of Motor Vehicles spent $2.2 million providing language services. Providing multilingual services would cost the Immigration and Naturalization Service between $114-150 million annually. Some of the costs come from the federal Voting Rights Act, which required King County, WA to print ballots in Chinese to little effect. That's a lot of dollars sunk into 3,600 ballots for barely any return. I know we’re in an age where the word “billion” or “trillion” roll off our tongues pretty easily, but that’s still quite a lot of money.

Sarkar then proceeds to worry about the potential effects of the newly passed Arizona law, SB1070, fretting that it could lead to—well, that’s never really explained, only that it allows for the investigation of anyone with “reasonable suspicion” of not holding legal residency. In other words, Sarkar is implicitly arguing that the law allows officials to investigate people based on what language they’re speaking.

This isn’t what it the law allows for at all. There is nothing about "English only" in this act. Instead, it does the following:

  1. Prevents the establishment of “sanctuary cities” that refuse to enforce immigration law and allows someone to bring suit against a state official/agency as well as any county, town or other political subdivision that isn’t enforcing federal immigration law to its fullest extent.
  2. Prevents unlawful hiring of illegal aliens for work.
  3. Any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official may result in detainment of an individual if the law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that the person in question is an illegal alien. So, let’s say a fellow gets pulled over for a burnt out taillight. He’s acting skittish and evasive and there are twenty-eight people stuck in his van, none of whom speak English. I’d say that passes the test for “reasonable suspicion.”
  4. After discharge from prison, the illegal alien will be handed into federal custody .
  5. A law enforcement officer can arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States (a recent article by CNN's Jack Cafferty reports that almost 1 in 5 illegal immigrants have a criminal record).
  6. Except where preempted by federal law, officials/agencies of Arizona may not be stopped from sending, receiving or maintain information relating to the immigration status of any individual or exchanging that information with any other federal, state or local government for a multitude of reasons, such as confirming someone’s identity.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget Subsection J of Sec. 2, Title 11, chapter 7, article 8 which reads as follows:

J. THIS SECTION SHALL BE IMPLEMENTED IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH

FEDERAL LAWS REGULATING IMMIGRATION, PROTECTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF ALL

PERSONS AND RESPECTING THE PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES OF UNITED STATES

CITIZENS.

The rest of the law deals with unpleasantries that have occurred alongside illegal immigration, such as human trafficking and drug smuggling. Basically, it’s a retread of federal law. I don't know how Sarkar missed this, the law is only sixteen pages long. Arizonan’s are doing something that the federal government lacks the cojones to do. Good for them. Stronger enforcement will make it more difficult to commit crimes like cross-border kidnapping.

The plain language of the statue hasn’t stopped some from becoming nearly hysterical, as the editorial shows.

“What members of this movement have largely lost sight of is our American tradition of resisting British imperialism and our pluralistic history predating the nation’s independence”

Since when did we have a “tradition of resisting British imperialism”? We had the revolution, sure, but colonists considered themselves British beforehand. Is Sarkar referring to the bold, anti-imperialist action of tearing down London Bridge and rebuilding it stone by stone in Lake Havasu, Arizona? If so, then Arizona's done more than any other state to resist British imperialism.

“It is written in the historical documents upon which this nation was founded”

Remind me, how many languages were those documents written in again?

“Implementing the proposal of the English-only movement will effectively move our nation a step away from the very unity this movement claims to bring, and could lead to the erosion of our constitutional rights.”

In other words, let’s highlight what makes ourselves different by making communication difficult in order to bring ourselves closer together, because that's worked so well for Canada and Quebec. Clearly, those protesters in Phoenix didn't feel like becoming American citizens. Instead of waving the red, white and blue, they waved the red, white and green. I don’t see how allowing the existence of a large population of criminals (which they are just by basis of crossing the border illegally) who feel no loyalty to the country they’re permanently residing in can result in progress for this nation. What good does balkanization of our culture do? These statements practically rebut themselves.

I still don’t get quite why the anti-Arizona demonstrators feel they have a right to be upset or why people like Sarkar feel the need to get defensive on their behalf. It’s a very good thing for all the protesters that they’re not in Mexico illegally, because Mexico’s immigration enforcement laws look positively draconian compared to U.S. standards. Notice all the Mexican flags that are in the first link, possibly being flown by illegal aliens? Noncitizens of Mexico cannot participate in the political affairs of Mexico much less wave another country's flag. Their country, their rules, I suppose, but it is irritating when Mexican President Felipe Calderon lectures us about how inhumane the United States is.

The last three paragraphs of the editorial, while wrapped in appeals to Americans' sense of fair play, fail to make a convincing case:

“An even closer read of the Arizona bill shows that being proficient in English does not necessarily coincide with a proficiency of the values which our nation holds dear”

Proficiency of values? What’s that even supposed to mean?

“... The nationalistic view that English should be our only language reflects a gravely misguided sense of entitlement bestowed upon those who were born in this nation to English-speaking parents… This continued push for “English-only” demonstrates an ignorance of our true national language that is vital to succeed in this country: American. If our nation has failed the followers of this movement, perhaps it is not in its lack of linguistic homogeneity, but in not passing down to them our values of liberty and tolerance.”

“Tolerance” apparently is letting oneself get bossed around by uninvited guests. If Sarkar ran the country, American citizens would have to put up with aforementioned cross-border kidnappings and drug cartels. Heaven forbid they defend themselves, because that would be racist.

"To say that a person’s very existence is illegal, invalid or outlawed by their status of documentation is hardly American."

Oh, wow. A lack of documentation makes a lot of things illegal in the United States. Driving without a license, taking out a library book, selling alcohol or being a barber, for a few examples. These days the only thing you can do without documentation is vote.

And just when you thought it was over, Raza Rasheed has his article in today’s D, titled “Political Problema.” You don’t even have to read past the first sentence before he implies that the Arizona law is racially motivated, equating the new law and Arizonans with the South under Reconstruction. Rasheed claims the law "allows police officers to single out people of color and force them to prove their immigration status at any time for any reason." As the commenter “Get it Right” posts on the D's website, the law doesn’t allow racial profiling; indeed, the law specifically prohibits it, a fact Rasheed somehow missed.

That’s not all, however. Mr. Rasheed goes on to blather about how Republicans have made reelection extremely difficult for themselves. The only problem is, the law is quite popular amongst Arizonans (the ones residing there legally anyway) and that’s to say nothing of the law’s popularity nationwide. A new Gallup poll, one of three new opinion polls released over the last 48 hours, finds that over 75% of Americans have heard about the law and that 51% favor it while only 39% oppose it.)

He then goes on to flog the GOP, saying that the tent needs to grow, lest the party find itself shrinking. Funny, because every complaint I hear from GOP voters is that the party became too liberal on such issues as fiscal responsibility and, you guessed it, illegal immigration. This was a smart, morally correct move from the Republicans to protect the citizens of Arizona, regardless of their race.

Oh, and look. The law’s already having an effect. Not that it'll matter to some people.

3 comments:

ooo000oops said...

Newsflash(es):

1. The Arizona law has already been amended (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-arizona-immigration-20100501,0,2712336.story).
2. Learn how to use the "Read more..." feature, or else Dartlog becomes unreadable when I'm trying to skip dull posts like this one.

Anonymous said...

New Hampshire does not have a law making English the official language of the U.S.

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