Among the pressing moral questions facing American Catholics in this election year, surely the top of the hot-button list is immigration by Hispanics. And for good reason: thus far, there has been no real “Catholic” position on that vexing issue. In the hopes of breaking some new ground, I submit for consideration this modest proposal: that we North American churchgoers do everything in our power to discourage illegal Hispanic immigrants from learning English.
This may sound counterintuitive when other voices say just the opposite. But isn’t there a serious moral case to be made that the well-meaning pushers of our native tongue are wrong? Preventing more Hispanics from learning English is both consistent with American political theology, and also a useful deterrent to potential social problems.
Second, and even more important: if Hispanics learn English, they will understand what their fiercest American detractors have been saying about them. And the consequences of that revelation could be dire. In fact, if they came to understand the contempt and loathing of certain Anglos, Hispanics might even stop doing what they come here to do: join the American military, babysit American children, pluck American chickens, and clean American toilets.
A conservative pundit recently complained that The Washington Post ran a bleeding-heart piece about illegal immigrants dying in detention for lack of medical care. “Sob stories,” the pundit derisively called these tales of lonely deaths in foreign confinement, full of “overripe language” (and “planted” by an “advocacy group”). His point is a sound one, of course – why should the needless deaths in custody of mute penniless strangers bother any of us? After all, it’s not as if there’s anything in the Bible about caring for prisoners. At the same time, we don’t want Hispanics themselves to see such unflinching truth about the real depth of our indifference.
What did the Pope say to all those Spanish speakers, many certainly without green cards? He told them not to let pessimism and problems overwhelm them. He said that the Lord is calling Hispanics to continue contributing to the future of the Church in the United States, and that through them and their evangelization here, copious fruits of peace would result. And toward the very end he said: La Iglesia espera mucho de ustedes, (“The Church expects much of you”) – this, to people whose native tongue has rendered them incapable of pronouncing the “J” in our Lord’s first name!
In sum, and weighing all the likely results of a dedicated effort to prevent the Hispanics among us from learning English, there is much to gain from such an enlightened policy. Of course, when the Great Wall is finally built to the south, it will mean that all the graffiti on the Mexican side will be Spanish-only. But it’s not like there’s anything these people would write that we northern Christians would need to read; and anyway, we won’t be able to see it.