By: Donna Poisl
This country doesn’t need millions of visitors living and working here. We need millions of Americans living and working here. And what we really need is for the immigrants who are here to become Americans. The most important thing they have to do to become American, is learn the language that most of the residents speak.
These people will never learn the laws or the rights they are entitled to, will never get good jobs, will never become successful, will never become Americans if they don’t speak English. And they will certainly never learn much about this country they moved to or feel any loyalty to it. In their minds, they will always be guests or visitors, always planning, however unrealistically, that they will go “home” sometime.
When Spanish speaking immigrants first arrive in this country, legal or not, they should be encouraged to learn English. Right now, they don’t have to. They can live here quite easily and even drive without speaking ANY English. They can get government forms in Spanish and almost all offices and departments have interpreters available for them. This certainly makes it easier and safer for them to live here, but it is perpetuating the problem and proving to them that learning English is unnecessary.
When Hispanic immigrants don’t learn English, they are doomed to remain second class citizens (or never become citizens). They are segregated in their “ghettos” and never assimilate. They are forced to take low paying jobs, their children are raised in poverty, often don’t finish school, take low paying jobs themselves, raise their own children in poverty and remain in this cycle.
Our federal and local governments must organize English classes for all immigrants, regardless of legal status. While they are learning English, they should be taught some of our laws and history. If these people are ever to become citizens, they must be given the opportunity to learn how to do that. This isn’t something people can figure out for themselves, they have to be taught.
Obviously there will be some cost to this, but the returns will more than make up for it. If these newcomers understand the language and laws, they will not get in as much legal trouble or traffic accidents, they will be able to get better jobs and pay more taxes, they will be healthier, they will be loyal Americans and contribute much more to this country. When parents speak English and get involved in their children’s schools, the children are likely to get better grades and the school benefits. When the schools are more successful, it helps the neighborhood.
Much of the animosity felt by citizens here is because these immigrants don’t speak English. Some think they are stupid, some think they are arrogant, some think they are dangerous. They actually are probably confused, scared or shy because they can’t communicate. If these people, the immigrants and the ones who are feeling the animosity, started talking to each other and found out all the things they have in common, I’m sure the bad feelings would dissolve. That can only happen with a common language.
About 50% of Europeans speak more than one language and only 10% of Americans do. Most Americans don’t realize how difficult it is to learn a language as an adult and don’t have much compassion for immigrants who have heavy accents or are too shy to try out their few English words and learn more.
Americans can do so much more to help immigrants. This country was built by immigrants, imagine how hard it was for our grandparents to move here and learn the language and the culture and succeed. They helped make this a strong country, we can help make it even stronger by helping the new residents integrate into this society and become Americans.
Immigrants have to be shown how important it is to learn English and how much they will benefit when they do. Their success adds to our success and everyone who lives here benefits when immigrants succeed.
|About The Author
Donna Poisl is President of Live & Thrive Press and the author of “How to Live & Thrive in the U.S. / Como Vivir y Prosperar en Estados Unidos”. She wrote this reference guide to help immigrants learn our system and succeed in this country.