The debate regarding whether or not immigrants should be forced to learn and speak English started as far back as 1754 (King, 1997, para.4) and continues to be debated currently. This issue is viewed differently by legal immigrants, illegal immigrants and American citizens.
R. D. King (1997) wrote that the issue of immigrants learning to speak English dates back to 1753 with regards to German immigrants. In his article, Should English Be the Law, King (1997) states, “In 1753 Benjamin Franklin voiced his concern that German immigrants were not learning the English language” (para. 4). Even after all these years, the issue of immigrants learning and speaking English in order to communicate better with co-workers, at the bank, or seeking medical care remains a concern for English-speaking American citizens. Furthermore, immigrants speaking English continues to be a constant topic of discussion for politicians and the media.
Schools in the United States teach children that Christopher Columbus is the man credited with finding America (Oliveri, 2007). Columbus Day is a national holiday in the United States. Christopher Columbus came to America from Italy but was a citizen of Spain; therefore, United States citizens should remember that immigrants founded America (Oliveri, 2007). From its inception, America has welcomed immigrants who came to the United States from a multitude of counties. These earlier generations of immigrants came with the purpose of becoming American citizens and worked to learn and speak English in order to unite America under one language (Whitmore, 2008). Immigrants, who come to America legally today, continue to come to work and take advantage of the freedom America offers. The majority of the legal immigrants currently coming to the United States want to “assimilate” into America and become American citizens just like their predecessors (Poisl, 2006). On the other hand, there are illegal immigrants who also come to America to make money and take advantage of the freedom that America offers. Both legal and illegal immigrants are aware they would have an easier time living in America if they would learn and speak English (Poisl, 2007). A large number of illegal immigrants live daily with the possibility of prosecution and deportation and, therefore, do not make the effort to learn to speak English (Poisl, 2007). These illegal immigrants make little or no attempt to study and work towards becoming American citizens (Poisl, 2007).
According to a study done by New American Dimensions (Whitmore, 2008), seven in ten Hispanics agree that immigrants in America should learn to speak English. Eighty percent of foreign-born immigrants agree they should learn to speak English if they are going to stay in the United States (Whitmore, 2008). Six in ten Hispanics interviewed for this study agreed Hispanic immigrants should “follow the rules and come to the United States legally” (Whitmore, 2008).