A century ago, when Teddy Roosevelt expressed his view that “we have room for but one language here, and that is the English language,” could he ever have imagined a time when almost half the residents of our largest cities would speak a foreign language?
The Center for Immigration Studies has continued its series of immigration analysis based on new Census data, this time focusing on the number of people who speak foreign languages in their homes. Their findings are shocking. According to 2017 Census surveys, 48.2 percent of residents of our five largest cities speak a language other than English at home: New York City and Houston (49 percent); Los Angeles (59 percent); Chicago (36 percent); and Phoenix (38 percent).
Obviously, whenever we admit immigrants, even as they are learning English, they might speak their native language at home for a generation. That is to be expected, and there is nothing new about that trend. But the sheer numbers should set off alarm bells that we are taking in too many people too quickly – reinforced by endless waves from the same countries of origin – and losing our cohesiveness as a nation. Earlier this week, I posted a report showing that even at the height of the Great Wave, we’ve never taken in so many immigrants. This new report from the CIS demonstrates the harm this is doing to our common culture.
“A common language is part of the glue that holds the country together. But in many cities, more [than] half the residents now speak a foreign language at home, while in other cities or rural areas almost everyone speaks English,” observed Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research and co-author of the report. “The level of immigration is so high that it may be causing the country to grow apart, weakening the idea that Americans are one people.”
Among the many findings of the report are the following disturbing data points:
This is very revealing for a number of reasons. It demonstrates that it’s not just immigrant children who are having difficulty speaking English, but even American-born children of immigrants. What does that do for cohesiveness in our education system?
Also, it’s concerning that more than one-third of adults who speak a foreign language at home are U.S.-born (19.3 million people). 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.
More than one in three Texas schoolchildren speaks a language other than English at home. How do we succeed in the continuity of our traditions with a dynamic like that?
Here are some other interesting tidbits:
As the authors of the report note, “Taking the longer view, states with the largest percentage increase in foreign language speakers from 1980 to 2017 were Nevada (up 1,080 percent); Georgia (up 945 percent); North Carolina (up 771 percent); Virginia (up 488 percent); Tennessee (up 441 percent); Arkansas (up 428 percent); Washington (up 410 percent); Florida (up 384 percent); South Carolina (up 379 percent); Utah (up 368 percent); and Oregon (up 356 percent).”
Welcome to the future of a bright blue electoral map.
There are ramifications to a nation that becomes so balkanized that it no longer has a firm cohesiveness of language for the rising generation. In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson warned against any migration in large numbers because they “will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave … These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation.”
Keep in mind, given today’s education system in most Western countries, many more people outside English-speaking countries know English than in the past. It makes sense to prioritize those who do, especially when we have so many people who want to come here. Yet almost all of the top sending countries for immigrants have a very weak level of English proficiency. In addition, we are clearly not assimilating those who have already come into the English language because we refuse to make English the official language for government paperwork. Unlike in past generations, we mollycoddle reverse assimilation.
This is another issue the GOP views as politically untouchable, but in fact it is a super-majority issue in favor of the conservative position. At least until the fundamental transformation is complete, the overwhelming majority of voters still want to protect the English language even if they can agree on few other issues. Why are Republicans not immediately uniting behind the Raise Act and making English the official language?
With a country that is more divided than ever before, our common language is perhaps the last characteristic we all share … but for how much longer?
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.