May 25, 2006 [LINK]

Mandating bilingualism

In today's Washington Post, George Will took exception to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's dismissal of the suggestion that laws requiring bilingual ballots be repealed: "Of course not." Will notes that Federal statutes in 1906 and 1950 made English proficiency a requirement for obatining citizenship, and concludes:

Hence, if someone needs a ballot written in a language other than English, that need proves the person obtained citizenship only because the law was not enforced when he or she sought citizenship. So one reason for ending ballots in languages other than English is that continuing them makes a mockery of the rule of law, including even the prospective McCain-Kennedy law that pro-immigration groups favor.

As Will emphasizes, encouraging people who don't know much English to vote is a step toward the Balkanization of our national polity. As I wrote on May 19, passing a law making English the national language without repealing mandatory bilingualism in public places and work places is "like one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator." Every time you see an official notice written in Spanish displayed in some business establishment, bear in mind that it basically signifies tacit official acceptance of large-scale violation of immigration laws. This practice simply cannot go on forever. Moderate (i.e., crowd-pleasing) Republicans like Lindsey Graham (see May 22) and John McCain (see April 7) seem oddly oblivious to the fundamental necessity of crafting laws that will be enforceable and therefore respected.