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opinion

Also in this section:
Panama Canal International Advisory Board, Support for canal expansion
Hahn, The other side of paradise

Bernal, The rector's alleged doctorate

Birns, Latin America's path away from US domination

Amnesty International, Overview of human rights in the Americas last year

Reporters Without Borders, Uruguayan journalist sentenced for insulting powerful Argentine
Committee to Protect Journalists, Another Cuban journalist jailed

Khalil, Political Islam vs the West

Gutman, Immigrants in the USA

Jackson, This past Memorial Day...

Sirias, Remembering heroes of old

Leis, The media, liquor and kids

"American Dream" --- earned privilege, not entitlement
by W. E. Gutman

I keep hearing: "You don't understand how difficult it is to come to America."

I understand. I too am an immigrant.

It took two years of grueling paperwork, endless background checks and interminable interviews with US Embassy officials in Paris. I was investigated, had to swear under oath that I did not belong to the Communist Party and was not seeking entry into the country to overthrow the government of the United States. Last, I underwent a battery of physical checkups to ascertain that I was free of communicable diseases and had to show proof of sponsorship before I was granted a visa.   

I spoke fluent English when I arrived in America at the age of 18 (in fact I spoke four languages), found work a week later, filed a Declaration of Intention (to become a citizen) and joined the US Navy six months after that. At no time did I demand that menus, employment and voting documents, restroom signs and Motor Vehicle Bureau application forms etc., be translated into French. I did not presume, with the pernicious effrontery displayed by some undocumented aliens, that I was owed free medical care, food stamps, a bilingual education, a driver's license and other privileges granted citizens or permanent residents. And I certainly didn't fly the French flag in defiance of presumed anti-French sentiments, or suggest that the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner be retooled into my native tongue.     

Nor do I see anything wrong in advocating (and now proclaiming) English as the official language of the United States.

Before coming to America, I also lived in Israel. From the start, Israel, a nation that has welcomed, absorbed and assimilated hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and North and South America, has upheld a simple, straightforward and discretionary policy: Hebrew is lingua franca in Israel. We will teach you how to speak it, read it and write it --- free of charge.

"Ulpanim" (state-sponsored schools for immigrants) offer intensive, total-immersion Hebrew courses to new arrivals --- minors and adults alike. All are counseled that failure to learn Hebrew will impair their ability to continue their education or obtain a decent job. They will be unable to read newspapers and magazines. Radio and television programming will be impenetrable. They will not be able to take part in elections or run for office. Last, they will seriously weaken their capacity to assimilate into Israeli society and partake in its cultural life. I have never known anyone to balk at these sensible and beneficial guidelines or to consider them excessive or undemocratic. On the contrary, foreign-born Israelis eagerly learn their ancestral idiom. While Israel publishes scores of foreign-language newspapers and periodicals, everyone speaks, reads and writes Hebrew --- in addition tho their native tongues. It's a given. As a child of 12, I learned it in a matter of months. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to enrich my intellect through the medium of language.

Yes, I favor immigration from Latin America [and elsewhere] --- insofar as it is done legally, and so long as candidates have no criminal records, possess marketable skills and demonstrably intend to become citizens and integrate into American society.

Alas, the "undocumented" are good business for the enterprises that exploit them --- and more are surely on the way.

As a UNIVISION TV commentator recently remarked with tasteless humor, "We are now the dominant minority. We can take back Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas without firing a single shot." The transparent hostility in this unfortunate quip is echoed by Mexico's government, and that of other Latin American nations whose ineptitude, corruption and indifference toward the plight of their own citizens openly encourage a ceaseless northward exodus.   

It is no wonder that El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have joined Mexico in protesting the deployment of National Guard troops on the border. These are all nations contaminated by intractable corruption, exhausted by poverty and despair and bled dry by crime and violence.

The painstaking but eminently fair process that entitled me and thousands of others to come to these shores 50 years ago should be reinstated and vigorously enforced. The United States may be a nation of immigrants but it also purports to be a nation of laws. When an undocumented person trespasses into the USA, whether to seek employment (or for more nefarious purposes --- think narcotrafficking or terrorism), he or she is breaking the law. "Amnesty" and other "feel-good" government dispensations are potentially hazardous to America's health. They also make a mockery of the law and dishearten those who abide by it.

The "American Dream" belongs to those willing to pay the price of admission.

 

W. E. Gutman is a veteran journalist on assignment in Central America since 1991. He lives in southern California.

 

Also in this section:
Panama Canal International Advisory Board, Support for canal expansion
Hahn, The other side of paradise

Bernal, The rector's alleged doctorate

Birns, Latin America's path away from US domination

Amnesty International, Overview of human rights in the Americas last year

Reporters Without Borders, Uruguayan journalist sentenced for insulting powerful Argentine
Committee to Protect Journalists, Another Cuban journalist jailed

Khalil, Political Islam vs the West

Gutman, Immigrants in the USA

Jackson, This past Memorial Day...

Sirias, Remembering heroes of old

Leis, The media, liquor and kids

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