Editor's Note: This article is authored by John Fonte
Why is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hindering the Americanization of new immigrants? Like this writer Cuomo is the descendant of Italian immigrants. His father, Mario Cuomo is one of the great Italian-American success stories of the Twentieth Century.
Recently, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring state agencies to provide government documents in six foreign languages (Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, French Creole (Haitian) and Italian. These state bureaus, including the various welfare agencies, will also be required to provide free interpretation and translation services to New Yorkers, who do not speak English as their primary language.
This is supposedly designed to assist new immigrants. But, what message is this sending to new Americans. Official multilingualism is telling them that it is not particularly important for immigrants, or their children, to make the effort to learn good English.
How different from the past, when Andrew Cuomo’s grandparents, Andrea and Immaculata arrived in New York in the 1920s, or when their son, Italian-speaking Mario attended PS 50.and eventually went on to become a master of the English language and Governor of New York from 1982-94. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order implies that Italian speakers in New York today are apparently less capable of learning good English than his father’s generation was decades ago.
In the past, governors of New York, who were proud progressives and liberals like Theodore Roosevelt, Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted the Americanization of immigrants not multilingual Balkanization, reminiscent of the old world empires that the immigrants had just left.
Today, progressive liberals like Andrew Cuomo see the new immigrants not primarily as citizens of a great Republic with equal rights and responsibilities, but as clients of a welfare state.
The liberals see immigrants and minorities as members of separate racial, ethnic, or linguistic groups who possess specifically designated group rights (in language, employment, etc)-not, as individuals with equality under law.
Obviously, America is a multiethnic nation with many ethnic subcultures of which people are understandably proud and attached (Polish-American, Mexican-American etc.). But, these subcultures should not be separate “communities” within our nation, as suggested by the concept of a group-based Muslim “community” within the United States, rather than simply American Muslims, whose primary political loyalty is to the United States.