Is English a Requirement for an Assimilated Immigrant?

Yesterday, I showed you that the dominant culture is not the one everyone assumes it to be. As discussed at the beginning of this paper, cultural assimilation is the assimilation of the minority culture into the majority one. Through empirical evidence of how the United States grew from the original thirteen colonies, it has been demonstrated that it is erroneous to believe that that the dominant culture of the United States is the Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASPS) that many believe it is. The Hispanic culture, is the true dominant culture in the United States. Let us explore this further by delving into whether English should be required for assimilating into the United States.

There is no argument that the English language is the default language of the US. It is also the most often spoken language in the country. There are many reasons for this but, in essence, it boils down to the simple fact that Manifest Destiny was driven by the Anglo-Saxons. Country building requires communication and a common language significantly facilitates that.

However, it is important to note that although English is the language of the nation, it is not the only language nor is it the official language. Through the country’s expansion westward, the pioneers leading the expansion were not monolingual English speakers but instead were multilingual able to communicate in the language, however rudimentary, that the territory they were pioneering was using at the time. There were many Anglo-Saxons that spoke fluent Spanish as they expanded into Tejas, now the State of Texas. This is true for most of the western states that now form the United States.

Now look again at any map from the 1800’s and you clearly see that English was dominant in only the territories that formed the original United States. The rest of the territories, that were eventually brought into the nation, were predominantly Spanish speaking, along with French and several Native American languages.

Spanish, however much vilified, is as American as English is in the United States.

Invariable this is going to lead us into the debate of whether English is the language of the land. As pointed out earlier, the United States grew as a consequence of Manifest Destiny. Except for the official policy of exterminating the Native American way of life and languages, the expansion of the US accepted the customs and languages of those it absorbed. In many ways it was the policy of the drivers of the expansion to be inclusive of the language and culture of those they brought into the nation.

To examine this, look at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which is the peace treaty that the United States signed with Mexico to settle the US-Mexican War. As a result of that war, the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean by annexing Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Spanish was the predominant language in those states, as they were Mexican. It was also the culmination of Manifest Destiny.

What is important to note is that each of these territories, that would later become states, were occupied by Spanish-speaking inhabitants. Although sparsely populated, the new territories contained individuals that had established strong cultural ties to the lands that they inhabited. That included the Spanish language. The other important element to note is that the treaty ending the war did not require the Mexican citizens to leave the territories. Instead, the treaty gave them the option to remain or to leave. Those that chose to stay were guaranteed US citizenship.

This leads us to the crux of the language issue. The treaty makes no requirement that the inhabitants adopt English as the common language, nor does it require the former Mexicans to adopt the WASPS’ culture as their own. Anyone that has travelled through New Mexico recently knows this to be a fact as evidenced by the fact that the Mexican culture is amply displayed across the state. Many parts of Texas also demonstrate this. This is also true for the vast majority of the lands that almost doubled the size of the United States.

Through the years there have been several attempts to force English as the language of the nation. In the 60s and 70’s many educational centers punished students for speaking Spanish in class. For many years, employers punished employees for speaking Spanish at work. Some still do. However, the law of the land does not enforce English as the national language. As a matter of fact, the law of the land discourages English only rules and regulations. There have also been several movements across the nation attempting to legally establish the English language as the official language of the country. All have failed.

Some may not like it, but the fact remains that English is not the official language of the country. Spanish, on the other hand, is the second most spoken language in the US. Even with attempts to eradicate it, the Spanish language remains firmly engrained in the fabric of the country, and continues to grow in use.

Keeping this in mind there are two things that need to be pointed out. The first is that the laws of the land are created and enforced by the citizens of the country. As much as some may dislike the notion that English is not the official language, the fact remains that it is US citizens who have voted to not make it the official language. It is not the immigrants that dictate the official language of the country, but rather the citizens that make the laws. This is an important distinction that must be repeated, the failure to make English the official language across the nation is not the fault of the immigrants.

The second issue that must be pointed out is whether immigrants should be required to speak English in order to assimilate. Going back the notion that assimilation is the integration of a minority into the majority then it would stand to reason that the majority, as evidenced by the inability to make English the official language, does not believe immigrants should be required to assimilate by speaking English. This merits repeating, the majority who participates in law making have agreed that immigrants are not required to speak English in order to assimilate.

This obviously leads us to the inconvenient question, who are the citizens that are holding back the laws making English the official language? Remember Manifest Destiny? They would be the inhabitants that occupied vast parts of the United States as it expanded westward. These individuals, whether you like it or not, are US citizens with the same rights to determine their country’s future as any other citizen, including those who demand immigrant assimilation. In tomorrow’s edition I will explore whether the existing cultures should be required to assimilate.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

10 replies on “The Fallacy That Immigrants Should Assimilate – Is English a Requirement for an Assimilated Immigrant?”

  1. Well, the fact of the matter is that Native American languages were the dominant. Who their land ? Who did away with language and customs ?

    Certainly the “white man” of whom were not all Anglo Saxon. By your own statement, Spanish was the dominant language, mainly west of the Pecos. So it means Spanish not only took the land but forced the people to learn Spanish. Was Spanish dominant because the tribes did not have a common language ? Was it because Spain was dominant power and needed a common means of communication ? Mexico assumed the Spanish policies and practices !

    Does anyone need to learn English or the host country language. That depends on how successful you want to be and want to be able to communicate outside your bubble. I suppose someone could be very successful without knowing a word of English. Some people become millionaires with an education, literally or read. Those are an exception !

    Why isn’t English an official language ? Most likely because people are too lazy or indifferent about voting for anything.

    The advantages of having an official language are communication, unifying, better life on and off the job, certainly would save money. Wouldn’t have to publish or post anything in several different languages. Take a look at Canada which has a French and English sector. I don’t know about now but a few years ago I know they had the weirdest law I ever heard. That is or was you were to communicate ONLY in the language of your sector when doing business or seeking government services. Didn’t matter if you were bi-lingual, the violation was punishable by law.

    In this country we don’t outlaw other languages. We do ask that we have a common means of communicating. How in the heck could we communicate as we travel thru different regions? If there are no foreign language speakers at emergency services ? Time would be lost finding someone to speak one of every language in the area. So the offices would go from maybe one room to a two story building to house one of every language AND dialect.

    Do you know how frustrating it is to communicate with a physician that speaks very little English or has such a heavy foreign accent, you have no idea what is being said. The physician might understand you but that’s it. Unless you want hire a physician versed in every language. Heck, sometimes we can’t understand the medical explanation and have to ask for a layman explanation.

    I would be miserable to relocate permanently to Siberia and not speak Russian !

  2. Be glad for Manifest Destiny or that whole part of North America would still be Mexico. You know, that country next door that 50% of its citizens would leave if they could. Like Martin did.

  3. Martin, if Hispanics truly were the dominant culture our laws would be more draconian, corruption would be rampant throughout the country, large portions of the country would lack potable water, there would be a lot more disease and crime would be up. Visit any country where they are truly the dominant culture and all those things are true.

    1. @Anglocentric: Do you not read the newspapers or follow politics? “our laws would be more draconian, corruption would be rampant throughout the country, large portions of the country would lack potable water, there would be a lot more disease and crime would be up.”

      THEY ARE!! Corruption IS rampant. Try to get a law passed without BIG money.

  4. @Rick, I agree there is too much money in politics. But, if a police officer pulls me over, I’m not concerned he is going to take me out in the desert and shoot me to steal my car. In Mexico, that is a very real concern. And our laws are not nearly as draconian as those of Mexico. Go protest peacefully and in the street over there about political policy and then report back about what Mexican jails look like–if you get released.

  5. I never cease to be amazed at the undying hatred of Hispanic & Mexican culture by many non-Hispanic “whites,” who otherwise pass as tolerant US citizens. It’s an even wider group than the rabid Trump foils who posted today above.

    Part of what is remarkable in these widespread sentiments is that they share the attitude that middle-class Anglo Saxons have been unduly harmed by the existence of (not even the prevalence of) an enduring, thriving Latino culture.

    The fact that Hispanics are still mostly in the bottom rungs of the economy, & have less education, wealth & status than whites is seen as irrelevant to these aggrieved protesters. Obviously, many non-Hispanic whites are poor, but the loudest complainers are people with computers & enough resources to navigate through social media.

    The other aggravating hypocrisy of these well-off Anglo whiners is that, while they are extremely disdainful of Hispanic culture & customs, these folks are all self-styled amateur Mexican or colonial Spanish historians. They can rattle off every treaty broken by the Spanish monarchy, or the Mexican government, against either the Southwest Native tribes, or against the later US/Texan colonists. Every violent suppression or destruction of Native American tradition. As if the Spanish & Mexicans were uniquely cruel & treacherous. This offers these “scholarly” racists the opportunity to discreetly attribute these negative traits to the contemporary descendants of the US’s Hispanic pioneers–conveniently overlooking the fact that most American Latinos are mixed race, with often majority indigenous background.

  6. I’m no historian, the facts speak for themselves. There were inquisitions that forced the Spanish religion and language on the indigenous people. Rape and slavery was common. Yes we have mestizos but they didn’t start that way ! Stating facts is not hatred, hopefully we learn frrom those facts.

    I know many very successful Hispanics, some were born with a silver spoon and many struggled to become successful. We make our destiny. Don’t want to study and work hard, well, don’t complain when you’re walking. Sure, some are victims but very few. I will agree that even one is too many. Stop blaming the white man for your misery and do something for you and your family. I walked through rain, hot days and winter for a couple of years, worked during the day and school in the evenings and Saturday mornings. I am not going to apologize because I am doing quite well now. While some wasted time blaming or partying I was trying hard. Low education or none, go to school or learn a trade ! Learn to sacrifice .

    Are people complaining, of course. Most of us worked very hard to get something and are tired of carrying those that won’t work, sit around waiting for the check. In the meantime, we are on the way to a job. If someone is truly disabled, that’s ok. But five kids without a father or obesity due to lack of self control are not disabilities. Nor is public assistance a career or a generation legacy. I knew a guy, years ago, that when the check did not arrive, he asked doesn’t anyone work around here. He said it right in the assistance office. His disability, lazy, no ambition and content to live on our dime. He too blamed the white man.

    Oddly enough we hear white folks complaining about Hispanics taking their jobs. I don’t know anyone that aspired to pick fruit. But that’s the brown man’s fault for the white guy for not working and waiting for the check while drinking Boones Farm.

    The key is re-emphasis self reliance, ambition, hard work, work ethics. Those are things that have been demonized since the sixties.

  7. Robb Chavez
    You also have racist Hispanics that hate other races and have not problem showing it.. Sorry Martin and you are trying to make a false claim that whites are all racist but yopu need to go take a good look in the mirror. We have seen more racism in El Paso than a lot of place we have lived.
    For Martin and you if you think Mexico is so great why don’t you live there but you seem to have no problem enjoying the benefits of what whitey has allowed as the majority and suck it up like gravy. Once again where is the mass exodus out of this such racist and oppressive nation ?
    So tell us what is so wrong with knowing history. Hell most people in El Paso do not even know the history of El Paso.
    Yep not a chance in hell that the Mexican government would accommodate us if we moved to Mexico because we do not speak Spanish. Nope we would be expect to learn the language if not tough.
    Oh you want to talk about wealthy whites go to Mexico and see the small group of people who owns most of the wealth in Mexico but let’s not point these facts out it may mess up Martin and your false narrative.
    Martin shouldn’t call this a white paper more like a dark brown paper because it’s”Bull shit” dribble.

  8. Actually Robb, I moved to El Paso to work in Juarez. I came with an open mind and no negative impressions. Twenty years later you feel I’m expressing Anglo racist views. The fact is that my views are based on what I’ve seen living in this community. There are distinct cultural differences in the way we view the world, ethical choices and personal responsibility for our actions.

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