Document crutch hampers Hispanics
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 22, 2005

Bilingual documents in Arizona and the United States are unfair, discriminatory and harmful to Hispanics.

An English only requirement will correct this dreadful situation.

The problem is that bilingual documents are printed in English and only Spanish. But, as English-only opponents point out, we are a nation of immigrants. We have many immigrant groups in Arizona and the United States, in sizable numbers.

To be fair and non-discriminating, we would have to print bilingual documents in all non-English immigrant languages. Why don't we? Why is the bilingual requirement for Spanish only? Reasonable answers to these questions are impossible, but English-only opponents are welcome to try.

The inescapable dilemma is this: Just what are we saying by having bilingual documents in Spanish? Are we saying that Hispanics need bilingual documents because they are not intelligent enough to learn English? If so, that is racist, condescending, and paternalistic no matter how it is spun.

Are we saying that all immigrant groups need bilingual documents, but only Hispanics deserve them? In that case, we are discriminating against all other immigrant groups, no matter how it is framed.

The cold reality is this: English/Spanish bilingual documents either discriminate against Hispanics, or discriminate for Hispanics, and discriminate against all other non-English speaking immigrant groups. There is simply no way around this fact. An English only policy is the sole remedy.

The tragic irony is that Spanish/English dual-language documents severely damage Hispanics in this country. The proof is the Hispanics' abysmal school dropout rate, their limited academic achievement, their minuscule number seeking higher education and their low incidence of economic success. These failures result directly from not learning English.

Why don't Hispanics learn fluent English? It is because they don't have to. The Spanish documents provide a debilitating crutch that enable Hispanics to marginally get by. Sadly, marginal is a nice word for failing, and people who don't learn English will spend a lifetime in that category.

Contrast the Hispanics' large-scale failings with the unrivaled success of other non-English speaking immigrant groups. These groups thrive and excel here, especially Asians. A few years after arrival, most Asians speak fluent English. Immigrant Asians made up 90 percent of the incoming freshman classes at our elite universities until restrictive quotas limited their composition to 40 percent. Obviously, the non-English speaking groups' language and educational successes have translated into unparalleled economic success.

Why do other non-English speaking immigrants learn English so quickly? The answer is: They have to. There is no dual language document crutch to impede their progress. These groups are benevolently coerced to do the one thing that ensures they can be successful. Why don't we show this same benevolence to Hispanics?

The evidence is unassailable, and the verdict has long since been decided. Dual language documents relegate Hispanic immigrants to a life of poverty and failure.

Fred Pinkney is a former Air Force health care administrator. He and his wife moved to Gilbert in 1997. The views expressed are those of the author.