injection of reality

Hi. So metro councilman Eric Crafton has this proposal to legislate English as our official language. It’s really popular in the anti-Mexican anti-immigrant circles. Just ask Kay Brooks (who has a good summary of the legislation, by the way):

I understand that there is tension between our society’s heart to extend hospitality and essential services in emergency situations and the practicals of how much and at what cost? The more we try and accommodate various languages the more expensive our government gets and the less new immigrants will assimilate.

or Donna Locke, in the comments:

Immigrants are supposed to be learning English. Our traditional assimilation model has been defeated – the loss of English as our common language is the canary in the mine – because we are taking in more immigrants annually than we ever did before the changes in our immigration policy a few decades ago.

Man, it sounds like things are pretty bad, huh? It won’t be long until the U.S. succumbs to invading hordes and is reclaimed for Aztlan.

I hate to be the one to rain on a parade of endless debate by injecting actual facts. After all, Donna’s point would be a pretty good one – if it were true. It’s true, right? Sadly, no. As I’ve pointed out time and time again, language (and cultural) rates of immigrant assimilation are higher than ever:

The vast majority of first-generation immigrants who come to the US as children speak English well. Among first-generation Mexican children, 21 percent do not speak English well; among first-generation Chinese children, the comparable figure is 12 percent. In other words, 79 percent of first-generation Mexican children and 88 percent of Chinese speak English well (or very well).

Bilingualism is common among second-generation children. Most children who grow up in immigrant households speak an immigrant language at home, but almost all are proficient in English.

English-only is the predominant pattern by the third generation. These children speak only English at home, making it highly unlikely they will be bilingual as adults.

High immigration levels of the 1990s do not appear to have weakened the forces of linguistic assimilation. In other words, the incentives to convert to English monolingualism by the third generation do not seem to have changed. Mexicans, by far the largest immigrant group during the 1990s, provide a compelling example. In 1990, 64 percent of third-generation Mexican-American children spoke only English at home. In 2000, the equivalent figure had risen to 71 percent.

So wait, you mean our culture isn’t under siege by immigrants threatening to destroy our way of life? Huh. So that would make this entire debate a pointless exercise in hysteria, wouldn’t it?