By John Fonte
Why is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hindering the Americanization of new immigrants? Like this writer, Cuomo is the descendant of Italian immigrants. His father, Mario Cuomo is one of the great Italian-American success stories of the Twentieth Century.
Recently, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring state agencies to provide government documents in six foreign languages (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, French Creole (Haitian) and Italian. These state bureaus, including the various welfare agencies, will also be required to provide free interpretation and translation services to New Yorkers, who do not speak English as their primary language.
This is supposedly designed to assist new immigrants. But, what message is this sending to new Americans. Official multilingualism is telling them that it is not particularly important for immigrants, or their children, to make the effort to learn good English.
How different from the past, when Andrew Cuomo’s grandparents, Andrea and Immaculata arrived in New York in the 1920s, or when their son, Italian-speaking Mario attended PS 50.and eventually went on to become a master of the English language and Governor of New York from 1982-94. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order implies that Italian speakers in New York today are apparently less capable of learning good English than his father’s generation was decades ago.
In the past, governors of New York, who were proud progressives and liberals like Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted the Americanization of immigrants not multilingual Balkanization, reminiscent of the old world empires that the immigrants had just left.
Today, progressive liberals like Andrew Cuomo see the new immigrants not primarily as citizens of a great Republic with equal rights and responsibilities, but as clients of a welfare state.
The liberals see immigrants and minorities as members of separate racial, ethnic, or linguistic groups who possess specifically designated group rights (in language, employment, etc)-not, as individuals with equality under law.
Obviously, America is a multiethnic nation with many ethnic subcultures of which people are understandably proud and attached (Polish-American, Mexican-American etc.). But, these subcultures should not be separate “communities” within our nation, as suggested by the concept of a group-based Muslim “community” within the United States, rather than simply American Muslims, whose primary political loyalty is to the United States.
As a liberal, Andrew Cuomo has rejected Americanization in favor of government-promoted multilingualism. He does not envision newcomers as individual American citizens, but as member of a separate group within America.
In contrast to Governor Cuomo one of America’s greatest liberal President’s, Woodrow Wilson, told new immigrants in 1915:
You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every respect and with every purpose of your will thorough Americans. You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America, has not yet become an American, and the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is no worthy son to live under the Stars and Stripes.
But, that was the old liberalism, a long time ago. Today’s liberals have been promoting anti-Americanization. How else could one describe the following actions, all products of modern liberalism:
(1) instead of immersion in English, students with Spanish surnames are assigned to “bi-lingual” classes, with very limited time spent on learning English. This harms both the students and our country as a whole.
(2) Immigrants who have taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and “renounced” previous citizenship, continue to vote and even hold office in their birth nations, making a mockery of the oath.
(3) Foreign language voting is required by Federal law.
(4) So-called “multicultural” education downplays the teaching of American history to the children of immigrants in favor of “ethnic studies.”
What has been the conservative response to this liberal assault on the very idea of Americanizing immigrants? Inarticulateness.
America is not simply a “nation of immigrants” it is a “nation of assimilated immigrants.” In the past, immigration has succeeded because immigrants were Americanized and became patriotic citizens. Liberal policies like multilingualism, multiculturalism, and dual citizenship for immigrants are tremendous barriers to the success of our immigration policy.
While conservatives disagree on immigration specifics, we should all be able to agree on a patriotic assimilation policy. Conservatives should unite to dismantle the anti-Americanization barriers that liberals (like Cuomo) have erected by ending bi-lingual education, government multilingualism, voting in foreign languages, and immigrant dual citizenship that violates the spirit of the oath of allegiance and permits voting in foreign countries and serving in foreign parliaments.
John Fonte is a Senior Fellow and Director of Hudson’s Center for American Common Culture. This article appeared at Townhall.com and is reprinted with permission.