I tend to lean in agreement with the argument that says we don't do anyone a favor by offering multi-language services because they allow some segment of the immigrant population--however large or small that segment may be--to navigate through daily life in America without ever becoming fluent in the English language. But we've had such services for decades now, and if American society is collapsing, it isn't because the signs on some grocery stores in Los Angeles read Super Mercado.
So I'm more than a little dismayed at the pro and con furor going on over the proposed immigration bill amendments that will make English the "official language" of the United States of America. Aside from whipping up emotions, what would such an amendment accomplish?
I don't know what if any federal laws are on the books that require any commercial enterprise or any agency in federal, state, or local government to provide other-than-English services. But by and large, the law that governs multi-language services is the law of supply and demand. If you're a merchant in China Town, you're probably wise to cater to the desires of your Chinese-speaking customers. If you're a politician in a city that has a large Hispanic voter population, you'll be inclined to approve of multi-lingual signs in city facilities. Ever get annoyed at that Espanola menu option when you call your phone company? Well, get used to living with the aggravation, because if your phone company weren't making money on people who use that option, it wouldn't be on the menu.
Legislating English as America's "official" language, or stating in law that no one has an "inherent right" to multi-language services is not likely to change where, when, or how these services are offered. To get rid of those services would require legislation that bans them, and the men and women in our Congress won't go anywhere near a proposed law like that. And would Congress ever dream of making it illegal for immigrants to use their native languages in their own homes and neighborhoods? I'll tell you what, I'll scream bloody murder if the Language Police ever come knocking on my door demanding I turn over my great uncle's German bible!
The proposed "English amendments" have as much real impact as the immigration reform bill itself. Building a great wall along the border that can be tunneled under or climbed over won't slow down illegal immigration or the illegal enterprises that support it. Nor will adding six thousand border guards, whatever agency they happen to work for.
The proposed immigration legislation serves two purposes.
First, it's an appeal to both ends of the split electorate baby. It courts the immigrant vote and the vote of businesses that employ immigrants and contribute to campaign funds. At the same time, it woos the segment of the population that wants to limit immigration for a variety of reasons ranging from labor issues to outright bigotry.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, it's a smoke screen that's masking a bevy of government failures and scandals.
Whatever the immigration reform bill winds up looking like, it will do for immigration reform what the Homeland Security bill did for Homeland Security. But don't worry. It won't cost you anything. Whatever the Social Security surplus doesn't cover we'll throw on our tabs with non-English speaking nations like China and Japan.