Imagine if the American people were told in 1980 that the non-English-speaking population in America would triple and rise to a level that is greater than the population of France. Would they ever have agreed to the policies that enabled this fundamental transformation?
Yesterday, the Center for Immigration Studies published a new report based on census data showing that there are now 67.3 million people who speak a foreign language at home in America. That is roughly 21.9 percent of the entire U.S. population, according to new data from the 2018 American Community Survey.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
Trend: It’s not just the sheer number of foreign language speakers that is shocking; it’s the trend. The number has tripled since 1980 and doubled since 1990. The foreign-born population has grown seven times as fast as the native-born population since 1980. But even since 2010, when the foreign population had already ballooned, it has still grown twice as fast as the native-born population over the past eight years.
Distribution and concentration: Although 21.9 percent of the national population speaks a foreign language at home, that number is more concentrated in some states. In nine states, that number tops 25 percent, and in seven states, the number tops 30 percent. The states with the highest percentage of foreign language speakers are California (45 percent), Texas (36 percent), New Mexico (34 percent), New Jersey (32 percent), New York and Nevada (each 31 percent), Florida (30 percent), Arizona and Hawaii (each 28 percent), and Massachusetts (24 percent). Astoundingly, in the five largest American cities, just under half of all residents speak a foreign language at home. In New York City it is 49 percent; in Los Angeles it is 59 percent; in Chicago it is 36 percent; in Houston it is 50 percent; and in Phoenix it is 38 percent.
Former red states and future purple states among fastest-growing: While the traditional large cities, more urban states, and the Southwest still contain the lion’s share of foreign language speakers, some of the fastest-growing foreign language populations are in states that are emerging as new destinations for immigrants. States with the largest percentage increase of foreign language speakers since 1980 are “Nevada (up 1,088 percent), Georgia (up 952 percent), North Carolina (up 802 percent), Virginia (up 488 percent), Tennessee (up 459 percent), Arkansas (up 445 percent), Washington (up 432 percent), South Carolina (up 398 percent), Florida (up 393 percent), Utah (up 383 percent), and Oregon (up 380 percent).”
Is it any wonder that Nevada and Virginia have turned blue, North Carolina has turned purple, and Georgia’s shade of red is growing lighter? Moreover, watch for some other states in the future, such as Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina. In the past eight years, states like Idaho and Oklahoma have also seen a huge percentage growth.
Types of languages: Roughly 62 percent of those who speak a foreign language at home are Spanish speakers. There are now more Spanish speakers in the U.S., according to the report’s authors, than in any Latin American country except for Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina. Chinese is the number two immigrant language, with 3.5 million Chinese speakers at home. While Spanish is still the dominant language among immigrants and has grown 12 percent since 2010, several languages from India as well as from Islamic countries are the fastest-growing in the country. The number of Arabic speakers has grown 46 percent over the past eight years and has doubled since 2000. The number of Bengali speakers has grown 68 percent since 2010 and has more than tripled since 2000. This is a testament to the massive growth of Muslim immigration since 9/11.
Children of immigrants and foreign languages: Forty-five percent of those speaking foreign languages at home were born in the U.S. While many of those people are children who are speaking foreign languages to their parents who don’t know English, Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler, the authors of this report, observed in a similar report two years ago that 18.7 million of those who speak foreign languages at home are native-born adults! This means we are not just talking about immigrants or native-born children who speak English well but use another language to converse with their immigrant parents. This is a salad bowl dynamic, where the velocity of immigration has been so intense for so long, with new waves from the same parts of the world reinforcing the old ones, that there is no assimilation. A Migration Policy Institute report claims 77 percent of the millions of school-age children enrolled in “limited English proficient” programs are native-born.
Polling still consistently shows that Americans overwhelmingly support making English the official language. It’s a mystery why Republicans haven’t more aggressively pursued this issue.
It’s time to codify English as the official language for government business, programs, and grants. Congress should also reintroduce the 1996 bill that passed the House, which would have repealed the requirement to offer bilingual ballots. How much English proficiency does it take to read the names off the ballot and color in a bubble? If one can’t even recognize the names, then how could he or she vote anyway?
Congress should also remove any mandates on the states that either directly force them to cater to the balkanization agenda or open them up to private litigation.
Those who truly support the values of immigration should champion the movement to restore the English language to its proper role in our society, especially concerning those who are not just immigrants but have become American citizens.
Justice Louis Brandeis, a son of immigrant parents, explained that the most important manifestation of Americanization is when the immigrant “substitutes for his mother tongue, the English language as the common medium of speech.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.