We are all immigrants

By Diana Soliwon (U-Wire)

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Whoever raised the issue of making English the official language of this country should go to their room and think about what they’ve done.

The question has now become a staple of presidential candidate debates, and cities are taking matters into their own hands. Carpentersville, a largely Latino suburb of Chicago, made history last week when it passed a resolution to make English its official language. And on June 6, the Senate approved an amendment written by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to make it official nationwide.

The madness of this topic gaining such ill-fated notoriety begs the question – what are we really trying to do? If it is to make immigrants who have sought a life in this country based on the American dream feel unwanted, then kudos. Mission accomplished. If it is to strengthen this nation’s growing reputation for being a bunch of self-important, narrow-minded people, then job well done.

I understand this matter stems from the fact that most immigrants, guest workers, illegal aliens, migrant farmers – whatever the case may be – have not learned the most spoken language of this country. Do I think they should learn? Absolutely. Do I think we should, in a sense, outlaw every other language but our own from this country that is famed for being rich in diversity and culture? Not if we don’t want millions of our ancestors to roll over in their graves.

This country was founded as nation of immigrants. It was considered a haven for all who escaped death, persecution or a miserable life for themselves and their families. I cannot in good conscience look in the eyes of those who seek the same and say my ancestors are better than them. Not when we are all truly immigrants.

As The News Leader of Staunton, Va., said, “unless your ancestors hailed from England, Scotland or Ireland, they came to this country speaking a language other than English.” The article went on to say cities such as Chicago contain the relics of this past, what with the Polish community and areas like Chinatown, or suburbs such as Lemont, which boasts a thriving Lithuanian population.

In short, this issue is a trivial one. We shouldn’t stifle the ethnic aspects of this country that gives it such flavor. We should focus on the real problem, which is that contemporary immigrants desperately need to find a way to communicate with the rest of us.

They need to learn English.

And to declare it the official language in the faces of those who are struggling to get by and do jobs most of us would never consider is just arrogant. Not only that, it is childish. Instead, we should write amendments and pass resolutions to provide these people with a means to learn the language. Perhaps English-learning programs should become a requirement for all who cannot speak it.

With problems like limited healthcare, overpriced education and an expanding poverty line that plague this country, I hope our government realizes making English the official language is the least of our worries. It certainly is the least of mine.