Moyers: The Rise of Hispanic America
Continued from previous page
The second thing they say is that we can't have a cohesive, coherent country without a common language. And if you have two peoples living side by side speaking separate languages you're not going to have a country.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: We heard the arguments. I know that, as far as the language is concerned, everyone knows that language is the official language in this country. Why is it necessary to make it official in, by law? I think there's more drawbacks to that.
Because for example in California when they tried to make English the official language it was virtually impossible, it didn't work. It was approved, but it didn't work. Why? Because you have so many different languages that are spoken there. Besides Spanish you have several Asian languages. So what would happen is in the schools the schools would be forced to send all materials to parents in English
When you have, you know, elderly people who do not speak the language and who would feel more comfortable it's very hard to do business. So it's not necessary to make the official language. We already know that English is the official language in this country. In fact, most immigrants and most immigrant families want their children to succeed in life, they want them to speak English so that they can be successful.
Remember that we are a very young society as far as Hispanics are concerned. We're very young. Median age is 26. Hispanic children are 25 percent of all children in the U.S. So the future of this country is in the hands of Latino children. It is to their benefit to learn the language in order to progress.
JORGE RAMOS: This is the only country in the world what I know, who people, there are people who think that it is better to speak one language instead of two. I really can't understand it.
Nothing's going to change. We're not seceding. We're not creating a nation within a nation. And what unites this country? It is not language. I think what unites this country is this wonderful idea of freedom and possibilities.
What strikes me is that even though the Declaration of Independence says that we are all equal, here we have 11 million who are not equal. Forget about being second class citizens, they're not even third class citizens—
BILL MOYERS: These are what critics would call illegal immigrants, undocumented…
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: Undocumented immigrants. That's…
BILL MOYERS: There are 11 million of them, you think, roughly.
JORGE RAMOS: Yeah.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: Yeah, and they're not all from—
BILL MOYERS: And they live in the shadows.
MARÍA ELENA SALINAS: They're not all Mexicans and they're not all, you know, there's over, that's another thing, one of the reasons why it's so important to Latinos is that immigrants, the enforcement is usually on the southern border. And you have over a million Europeans; you have over a million Africans. You have Canadians, so you have Asians there are here illegally.
Yet it seems that as if all the undocumented immigrants were Hispanic and all of the enforcement, yeah, but all the enforcement's on the southern border. So you do not see someone say, "Let's go and round up all blue-eyed blonde Germans that are here illegally because they're a threat to our country." So only Hispanic immigrants are considered a threat to that country. So there is a very negative tone to the rhetoric concerning the immigration issue. If we remember one of the things that changed was 9/11. President Bush was very much in favor, not of amnesty, but of an immigration solution, comprehensive immigration reform.