Over the past 300 years, when foreigners contemplated immigrating to the United States, foremost in their minds was that they wanted to become Americans; sure they wanted better lives; they wanted to attend our universities; some fled oppression in their own countries, but becoming an American was the prime motivating factor in their decision to come to the United States.
It was a given that being an American would offer them the opportunity for a better life, better educational opportunities and an environment with minimum, if any, oppression. Italians, Germans and the Irish came through Ellis Island in New York City and settled there in their own little enclaves, many speaking little to no English.
They all spoke in their native languages at home and in their neighborhood, but they understood that in order to take advantage of all that America had to offer, they had to learn English.
In those days, part of being an American was learning the new language. They didn’t forget their language or their culture from back home, but they fully understood that being an American citizen meant adopting the American culture, which includes the language.
Today, you have foreigners becoming American citizens who don’t have the ability or the desire to learn English. They have absolutely no interest in adapting to American culture. They are not pursuing the American dream — they seem only to want the government benefits of citizenship.
Citizenship is like marrying a woman. The woman leaves her family, takes the name of her husband, and moves into his house to build a new life together. The woman doesn’t forget where she came from, nor her family name, nor her brothers and sisters, but her new life with her husband now becomes her priority and her commitment.
Now, just imagine if the woman marries, but doesn’t take her husband’s name and doesn’t live with her husband, but rather decides to continue to live with her parents. One could argue that she is merely married in name only.
Likewise, we are allowing immigrants to become citizens who refuse to accept our culture; they refuse to build a new life, based on American values.
When I am in France, I must speak French. When I am in the Dominican Republic, I must speak Spanish. To expect these countries to put everything in English to accommodate Americans who don’t speak their language would be the height of arrogance and very impractical.
In 1975, liberal Democrats amended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to “mandate” that all voting ballots be printed in multiple languages to accommodate citizens who don’t speak English. The language provision is part of section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and was meant “specifically” for blacks who were in the South who couldn’t read or write, because many blacks, historically, were denied access to an education.
This had nothing, let me repeat, nothing to do with people who refused to learn English.
But, as liberals are good at doing, they began to expand the definition of section 203. This mandate codified into law that the government “must” make accommodations for any citizens that don’t speak English.
Therein lies the problem. How can you be a citizen of these United States and not speak English? This foolishness cannot be allowed to continue.
Language is always the key ingredient in defining a country and is one of the defining things that make a person a part of that particular country. You can’t be a Frenchman and not speak French. You can’t be a German and not speak German. So, why, in America, can you be allowed to be American, but not speak English?
I am really fed up with immigrants wanting citizenship, but not wanting to become Americans. Being American must include speaking English, knowing the Pledge of Allegiance and being loyal to America and only America and all of its values. This must be codified in law and enforced.
You can’t be a basketball player, but play football everyday. You can’t be a chef, but study to be a lifeguard. You can’t be a preacher and never study the Bible.
Likewise, you can’t be an American and not speak English. Just because you are a legal citizen doesn’t mean that you’re automatically an American. Being an American is about the language, the culture and the values. That’s what every American should have in common.
Until we get back to these principles, we will continue to lose the true meaning of what should make us all Americans.
Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 super PAC established to get more blacks involved in the Republican Party.