Thoughts on our immigration problem and language

This post has its origin in an incident that occurred to me somewhat recently riding the bus home from a recent event. Without giving too many details, the dispute stemmed from the fact someone who I really didn’t have any intent of talking to, who insisted on asking me questions in Spanish. Funny thing is, he had no issue speaking to someone else in English, and had he just spoken to me in English (the only language he spoke that I understand) to begin with, there would have been no issues…

Anyway, this got me thinking about a lot of immigration issues. I’m not going to cite a specific news story or event. Instead I’m going to merely cite Government Code 2054.116:

Sec. 2054.116. SPANISH LANGUAGE CONTENT ON AGENCY WEBSITES. (a) In this section, “person of limited English proficiency” means a person whose primary language is other than English and whose English language skills are such that the person has difficulty interacting effectively with a state agency.
(b) Each state agency shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that Spanish-speaking persons of limited English proficiency can meaningfully access state agency information online.
(c) In determining whether a state agency is providing meaningful access, an agency shall consider:
(1) the number or proportion of Spanish-speaking persons of limited English proficiency in the agency’s eligible service population;
(2) the frequency with which Spanish-speaking persons of limited English proficiency seek information regarding the agency’s programs;
(3) the importance of the services provided by the agency’s programs; and
(4) the resources available to the agency.
(d) In making a reasonable effort to provide meaningful access, the state agency must avoid:
(1) providing information in Spanish that is limited in scope;
(2) unreasonably delaying the provision of information in Spanish; and
(3) providing program information, including forms, notices, and correspondence, in English only.
(e) This section does not apply to interactive applications provided through the state electronic Internet portal.

Added by Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 683 (S.B. 213), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.
Amended by:
Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 973 (H.B. 1504), Sec. 16, eff. June 17, 2011.

There are at least three important things to notice about this law, and a couple that relate to the issue in general:

  1. It has only been around since 2005. In other words, we have gotten by for about 160 years as a state (in the US) without it. Why it was suddenly necessary to make a law in 2005 is a mystery to me, and probably to most Texas residents.
  2. The intent of the law is to help people who do not understand English, by catering to them in a foreign language (Spanish) at significant additional (taxpayer) expense.
  3. However, in spite of this, the practical effect of the law is to provide a massive impediment to declaring English the official language of the state, and is the first step down a potentially slippery slope towards just the opposite.
  4. Outside of a couple of specific waivers, the exam for US Citizenship is only issued in one language, which is English. The intent of this is that most residents of the US speak English, but that only works when most of them are here legally or care about becoming a citizen. The masses who have come here by whatever unlawful means (swimming across the river, hiking across the desert, etc) have no real intentions of becoming citizens, and when state governments like Texas give them no incentive, we have the issue where asking someone a question in English gets a blank look.

A brief Texas history lesson for those who grew up outside the state: In 1836, Texas fought for, and won, its independence from Mexico. In 2016 March, just a few short months from now, Texas will celebrate the 180th anniversary of its independence from Mexico. The war with Mexico was a bloody conflict with a lot of lives lost, and I would like to think that war was not fought in vain. However, it is difficult to tell how successful we were, when Mexico’s current population finds whatever (usually illegal) methods to cross the border and refuses to learn our language (English), our laws (failure to yield right of way is frighteningly common on the roads in areas of town with a heavily Hispanic population, as is complete confusion on whose turn it is to go at an all-way stop), and our culture, including our manners and customs (some of my worst encounters with rude people, have almost invariably been with someone of either Hispanic descent or Mexican nationals who were illegal aliens in the US at the time).

(Incdentially, as best I can find, “quasequinquecentennial” would be the word for 180th anniversary. It’s not going to be in the dictionary just yet. And definitely don’t try playing it in a Scrabble game; I think it won’t even fit on the board.)

The Power Hour posted this information that the Mexican government gives its expatriating citizens (translated to English, thankfully) and a lot of it is surprising. Of course they say the safest way across is legally: with a passport and visa. That’s on the first two pages… of a 32 page booklet. Officially, of course, the Mexican government says again on the last page they do not condone the illegal crossing of the border; the reality is though, most of the translated booklet is a “how to” on how to cross the border illegally and the risks involved in doing so.

In fact, to me, the 28 or so pages in between completely belie this statement that they don’t in fact condone illegal immigration into the US. If most of the 28 pages were an explanation of the immigration laws of other countries including the US, and placed the emphasis on how to immigrate to the US legally, it would be a different story. The fact is, that’s not the case.

I am left with the rather unfortunate impression that the more people the Mexican government can convince to swim, hike, or sneak across the border, the better, and that they honestly don’t give a shit that they are in effect openly advocating the violation of US law. It’s a wonder that the US has relatively good relations with Mexico given that the Mexican government has no issue basically thumbing its nose at US immigration laws.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. It’s illegal to bring a gun into Mexico. How well would it be received, by the Mexican government, if the US government were to put out a 32-page booklet with only short disclaimers at the beginning and end regarding Mexico’s gun laws, yet devote the 28 pages in between on how to smuggle guns and ammunition across the border illegally? I would not expect it to be well received at all. I would in fact expect Mexico to retaliate against the US for this sort of thing, possibly even including some form of trade sanctions. Yet this is exactly the kind of thing the Mexican government is (so far) basically getting away with here.

What the hell can we, the US residents, do about this? The first thing I would recommend: cancel the vacation to CancĂșn, Acapulco, Mexico City, etc in favor of just about anywhere else. Miami and other cities in the US have beaches too and you don’t need a passport. (If you aren’t insistent on crystal clear water, Galveston will do in a pinch if you’re closest to it.) If the beach isn’t your thing, there are plenty of places in the US to see that are interesting, such as one of our many national parks (the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone among others). Parts of Canada are also quite picturesque. If you don’t mind flying and can afford to go, Hawaii is also worth a visit.

Once you do that, of course, it’s important to let people know why, particularly the appropriate people in Mexico’s government and tourism industry who will no longer be profiting from your desire to travel. If enough people do this, eventually Mexico’s tourism industry and government will get the message.