McCain, WSJ: `Amnestied Aliens Will Learn English, Civics!” Joe Guzzardi: “When Hell Freezes Over!”
If you hear it from
Senator John McCain, [McCain:
Earned Citizenship, Not Amnesty,
ABC News, March 28, 2006] or read it in the
Wall Street Journal and it`s
about immigration, you know it`s bogus. [Will
GOP Be the Party of Reagan or Tom Tancredo?
Wall Street Journal,
March 31, 2006]
And it is.
McCain, his colleagues on the
Judiciary Committee who voted
Arlen Specter`s guest
worker/amnesty proposal and the
WSJ are all telling you that
among the provisions for “earned legalization”
will be that aliens must learn how to
I know because twenty years
ago I tried but failed to teach them.
Without a deep desire to
learn English, no one can be taught. And trust me—that
yearning, except in a rare case, is not there.
Learning English is low on
most illegal immigrants` priority list. Witness the
empty classrooms that I have
so often written about.
Should amnesty become law,
the federal government will assign some preposterously
low number of classroom hours as a green card condition.
Two decades ago, the total
was an insignificant forty hours. Who among the
illiterate can learn a
foreign language in forty
In any 2006 amnesty, given
the magnanimous attitude in Washington that prevails
illegal aliens, the required
hours are sure to be fewer…maybe even as low as ten.
The stipulation that aliens
learn English is a
hoax—like every other aspect
of the guest worker/amnesty concept,
Who will really ever
know—except for the instructor and the pupil?
We can be certain that
McCain and Specter won`t be
checking up on anyone.
If you are one of the fifty
or so people in the U.S. who trusts either
I invite you to read my 2002 column about my classroom
experiences during the last amnesty titled
“Immigrants Won`t Learn
English, Washington Doesn`t Care”.
Keep it in mind as you hear
repeatedly from the Senate sell-outs how wonderful it
will be when the amnestied aliens are fluent in English
and know the difference between
George Washington and
January 18, 2002
View From Lodi, CA:
Immigrants Won`t Learn English. Washington Doesn`t Care.
I have to give the devil his due. I
stand in awe of
Vicente Fox`s relentless, full-court pressure for
amnesty for Mexican illegal immigrants. And I remain
slack-jawed at Bush`s willingness to risk
political suicide by resurrecting amnesty time and
again, despite the
disapproval of the American people.
On a personal note, however, at
least amnesty might bolster the attendance in my
English as a second Language [ESL] courses—for a
1980s amnesty, green card applicants were required
complete 40 hours of English instruction. Suddenly,
my ESL classes went from less than half full to a
point where people were bringing their own folding
Classes were jammed. As a newcomer
to teaching, I was enthusiastic about the turnout. How
wonderful, I thought, that all these prospective U.S.
citizens were so eager to learn English.
My bubble burst within a week. When
students completed 40 hours to the minute, they
presented their INS forms for my confirming signature
attesting to their attendance.
At first, I balked. In the fine
print, the form also said that the student had to
demonstrate a mastery of conversational English and a
basic understanding of U.S. history and government.
I refused to sign a federal
document that made a false statement. I suggested
instead that some students remain in class. After all, I
reasoned, they were going to
live the rest of their lives in the U.S. Why not
spend a few hours a week at Adult Ed to learn your new
Within another week, I had my
second awakening. I received a telephone call from an
INS official asking me why I wasn`t signing the
forms. When I explained my reasoning, he responded
curtly: "Sign them."
My immigrant students, instead of
returning for the extra instruction they so badly
needed, had complained.
After a few months, the last of the
amnesty crowd completed their minimum requirement. Our
dwindled back down to their earlier levels.
In an ironic twist, dedicated
students who had been attending every day stopped coming
when they received the "Certificate of Completion."
To them too, the class ended with that document.
Looking back, I wonder why the
government chose 40 hours. About one-third of my ESL
never been inside a classroom. And among those who
have had some education, most cannot speak English.
Why wouldn`t the government impose
a meaningful time period? Forty weeks of
instruction would have made more sense. If
U.S. citizenship isn`t worth
10 months in the classroom, then citizenship isn`t
My experiences were nearly 15 years
ago. Many ESL students have come and gone during that
decade and a half.
I`m still at my desk every night
eager and willing to teach those who want to learn. And,
thankfully, I have some faithful students.
Those who work hard
are rewarded. The best of them have gone beyond ESL
to complete their GED—which says they have the
equivalent of a high school diploma.
But I no longer have any illusions.
Lodi Adult School offers 15 sections of Adult ESL in
all corners of town at all hours of the day and evening.
Every resident lives within walking distance of an ESL
class. But too many are unwilling, literally, to walk
across the street to learn English.
I`m not saying that it`s easy.
Sometimes life gets in the way. And mastering a new
language is a challenge. But in most areas of the
diverse San Joaquin Valley, ESL classes should have a
waiting list instead of empty seats.
I`ve noticed an
inverse relationship between the number of
immigrants who come to California and the number of
students who enroll in class.
Learning English is only important to a handful of
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.