Columns on Latino Issues Stir Up Recurring Themes

A trend.

Every time the words immigrant and bilingual education appear in this column, the calls, e-mails and letters pour in.

Many of the respondents are reasonable and rational. Many, however, are angry and vehement. And some are just plain venomous.

Some themes emerge. Condensed, combined and paraphrased, here they are, along with responses:

My parents emigrated from Italy, Greece, Germany, Russia, (fill in the blank). I spoke no English when I started school. I didn’t have bilingual education and I did just fine. Mexican kids don’t need it either. It just means they don’t have to learn English.

Bilingual education is simply about kids learning core topics in their own languages while also learning English. It’s about making sure they keep pace with their fellow students in these core topics until they gain enough English fluency to be mainstreamed with the other students. English is the goal.

There is no magic number for how long it takes kids to reach that goal. Let’s give a kid whatever time is necessary.

As for past immigrants, some of this is simply revisionist history. We’ve tended to romanticize what were, in reality, some pretty harsh, unpleasant times for a lot of people.

Yet there are differences.

The level of education of today’s immigrants and their parents is dismally low. While this also characterized turn-of-the-century immigration, this was a time when folks could eke out a living as laborers and blue-collar workers.

This was also somewhat true in the ’50s and ’60s. Even then you could graduate from high school with something less than a stellar education and make do.
We’re now in the digital age, however. The days when strong backs and hands were in heavy demand are long gone.

We can return to the days of sink-or-swim. Those who sink will be low-skilled and ill-educated and they will still be here. Do this if you’re content with creating a permanent underclass.

My parents (or grandparents) came from (usually a European country). We’re all proud to be Americans. Why don’t Mexicans here want to be Americans?

Retaining roots, culture and language does not equal not wanting to be Americans. The old assimilation model is simply undergoing some tweaking.
There’s proximity to Mexico to refresh and remind us of the ties. But here’s one crucial difference: This present-day immigration involves many people of color, people who not only speak a different language, but look different.
Assimilation is a two-way street. Step No. 1 is wanting to be assimilated.

Most of us find this desirable. It is, in fact, inescapable. We just prefer a blending more than a drowning.

Step No. 2, however, is being accepted. This ball is not in our court. And until folks get used to the tweaked model, this will likely continue to be a problem, although I know most hearts are good out there.

You wrote in your column that fear of immigrants and their progeny is driving many of the efforts we see on our ballot initiatives these days. I am not afraid. But, admit it, those #?$#? immigrants are taking our jobs, committing all the crime and lowering the standards in our schools.

Many of you call to tell me you have no fear, then end up complaining about all the ills allegedly wrought by immigration, illegal or otherwise.

Many experts contend that immigrants pay far more in taxes than they take out in services. I like how one person refers to it. He says we should be talking about undocumented taxpayers and not illegal aliens. And, as for lawbreakers, immigrants have their share, but I suspect our jails and prisons are fuller proportionately of citizens than non-citizens.

You write a lot about Latino issues. You’re a racist. Writing about Latinos is divisive.

I wonder how many out there, beside minorities, were calling up the newspaper when people of color and their issues were more absent from the pages than they are now. I wonder how many people call up George Will and complain about all the “White” issues he’s writing about. That would be silly. There are only issues and they affect us all.

I don’t think everyone who opposes bilingual education, affirmative action or any of the other myriad so-called “minority” issues is a racist. The flip side, however, is that writing about or supporting the other side of these issues does not make one anti- Anglo.

Hey, if you and all the rest of the Mexicans don’t like it here, go back to Mexico.

We’re home and loving it.



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