Language is the flashpoint in the immigration debate
In Wisconsin, we’re about as far away from the Mexican border as you can get without being in Canada, but that doesn’t mean we’re detached from the debate.
One of the flash points of the immigration debate is where the Spanish language fits in American culture. It’s a topic that most people have an opinion about.
I’m reminded of that each month when we include Vista magazine in The Week in selected communities.
The insert is included in many of our papers this Sunday. Vista is a monthly national newspaper magazine of Hispanic news and culture.
We include it as part of our mission to bring news and information to as many of our readers as possible. The Hispanic market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in Walworth County.
The more people who read and are engaged by The Week, the better vehicle it is for our advertisers who depend on us to get the word out about their businesses. And because The Week is delivered free, it’s the advertisers who in effect pay for each subscription to The Week.
Last month, for example, I received a call from a vendor who will be at the Taste of Whitewater over the Fourth of July. They thought adding Vista attracted just the kind of consumers they were looking to reach.
But not all the calls I receive are positive. Many feel a publication like Vista has no place in The Week.
One phone caller said, “We shouldn’t print Mexican and put it in a general newspaper. It should be English.
“If you don’t have enough respect to learn the language of this country, maybe you shouldn’t be here,” the caller continued.
“It’s not helping people. If people want to do more than just stand out in front of Home Depot waiting for a job, they should learn to speak the language. It’s not doing anything for the immigration cause when you’re putting out Mexican instead of English in an English newspaper.”
The e-mail bag brought these responses:
“I am a former teacher. Illiteracy in America is a very important topic to me. Your circulation of Vista magazine only contributes to the problem of functional illiteracy.
“If you cannot read and write English in America, you are functionally illiterate. This is not a racist or judgmental statement. It is a fact. If you are in America, you need to speak and read English. If you do not, you will miss out on many opportunities.
“If you moved to France, would you expect the entire country to change its official language to English, just for you? Of course not.”
My view is that we’re not promoting Spanish as our national language, nor are we promoting illiteracy.
I think everyone agrees on the importance of knowing English to function in our society. It’s a requirement of citizenship. In fact, Walworth County is one of the few counties nationwide who has passed a resolution declaring English as the official language of county government.
If I did move to France, I’d certainly learn the language and would not demand that the French speak English just for me. All I’d ask is that I could still read The Week, even though it was in English.
In any case, we’ll be hearing more about these issues in the months ahead. We’re interested in your opinions as well.
You can comment online at www.theweekextra.com or send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.