Six months ago, Joey Vento (the owner of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia) put up a sign in his restaurant that reads, “This is America — when ordering speak English.” He states that he added the sign to encourage immigrants to learn the language.
Of course, a bunch of whiny, immigrant activists have labeled his actions as racist. Roberto Santiago, executive director of Philadelphia’s Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (the organization’s name conspicuously missing a hyphen, most likely due to someone’s poor knowledge of English punctuation), says that Joey is expressing the message that “I don’t like these brown faces in my community and I will do everything I can to get them out of there.”
What a load of crap! The sign doesn’t say anything about brown faces, Latinos, or even Spanish-speaking people. People like Roberto Santiago — who encourage immigrants, legal and otherwise, to snub US society and expect everything to be bilingual to serve their own selfish needs — are actually suppressing immigrants by encouraging them to be unfit for US jobs and more fit for welfare. Joey did not make the issue racist. It is Roberto and other like-minded, self-centered, myopic individuals who are playing the race card for their own personal gain.
I don’t care what color someone’s skin is or where they came from; in my position I work with a lot of immigrants. In fact no one on my development team is actually from the United States; instead they are from India, Australia, Iraq, Ukraine, and China. They are all educated, English-speaking, legal immigrants. I support them, and admire their integrity and determination. On the other hand, my less educated, Spanish-speaking, most likely illegal immigrant gardeners — who probably make about eight bucks an hour after their dual-language-speaking boss pays them under the table — do not deserve any sympathy or respect for refusing to learn English or for crossing the border illegally.
I understand that Joey is not necessarily making a stand about illegal immigrants, only that immigrants should merge into US society by learning the language. He’s right. And I have yet to find a legal immigrant who disagrees. If a Korean immigrant comes here and expects to speak only Korean, works only with Koreans, and celebrates only Korean culture that person is not contributing to US society and should just go back home. The same applies to Mexicans, Germans, Italians, Swedes, Japanese, and everyone else. Blend in! Contribute to US society! Communicate with others around you! Speak English!
But I have a stand on illegal immigrants, as well as a stand on non-English-speaking immigrants. They (the ubiquitous “they”) say that illegal immigrants do the jobs we Americans refuse to do. That’s what high school and college students are for; they will gladly mow the lawn, wash cars, and work in fast food restaurants. Prison workers can work the farm fields. California is supposedly one of the country’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables. If these illegal workers are so plentiful and cheap and “good for California”, why is it that most of the fruits and vegetables in my local supermarket come from south of the border? Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil…
It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that I and other English-speaking individuals must endure product packaging in both English and Spanish. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that buses drive around town advertising some unknown thing in Spanish that 75% of the people living here can’t read anyway. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that the crime rate is higher than it should be because they can’t make a standard living. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that insurance and health care are so expensive.
I sent Joey an email:
Yay! I support you in your lonesome effort to encourage immigrants to learn the language and assimilate into US society. As a child, I lived in Germany. Could I expect everyone to provide everything in English to me? No, I had to learn German. I find it quite appalling that many immigrants to the US expect the opposite. Thank you very much for making a stand!
This is America — speak English.