The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010
In order to account for the roots of the Hispanophobia of U.S ENGLISH, one needs to keep in mind several factors.
Since 1965 thousands of Mexican immigrated to the US when the Hart-Celler Act ended the national origin quotas established in 1924 and gave preference to family reunification as well as skilled workers. In the 1970s, it is said that 640,000 Mexicans entered the United States legally. 97 In the 1980s, they were 1, 656,000 to legally cross the border and in the 1990s, the number of reached 2, 249, 000. By 2000, Mexicans represented one half of all immigrants entering the United States98.
Contrary to pre-WW1 immigration that was highly linguistically diversified because immigrants came from all over the world speaking Italian, German, French, Polish, Russian or Yiddish, since the 1990s half of those entering the United States spoke a single non-English language, namely Spanish. We have seen that for those like U.S ENGLISH who fight to protect the status of English in the United States, the presence of Hispanics has been considered a dominance.
Before accounting for what characterized immigration from Mexico, one needs to put forward the reasons for the high number of people of Hispanic origins in the US.
First of all, the historical presence of Hispanics in the South of the United States is a determining factor accounting for their presence in such areas. Before the 1846-1848 Mexican-American war almost all of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Utah were part of Mexico. One may wonder if the strong presence of Hispanic immigrants in the South West of the country was not seen as a re-conquest by some anti-immigration organizations.
The contiguity and closeness to their homeland with the American soil and the size of the border may be a factor accounting for the huge presence of Hispanics in America. This contiguity allowed the immigrants to remain in close contact with their family and friends at home. The two thousand mile border between the United States and Mexico made the crossing quite easy for illegal immigrants and it also allowed them to keep in touch with their friends and family. The cost of travel between the US and Mexico was very cheap compared to the cost of travel between China and the US.
Another element to take into consideration is the regional or sometimes urban concentration that characterizes Hispanic immigration. It is a common belief that dispersion is essential to the assimilation process because the more concentrated immigrants are, the slower and less complete their assimilation. In the US, the largest concentration of Hispanics is
97 HUNTINGTON, Samuel, The Hispanic Challenge?, March-April 2004, 16 pages, Foreign Policy. Web. 4 March 2010. p. 3.
situated in the South West, more particularly California. In 2000, nearly two thirds of Mexican immigrants were living in the West and half of them in California (Huntington 3).
Furthermore, the economic differences between Mexico and the United States were also a determining factor. It is likely that immigration from Mexico will decline when the economic situation of Mexico approximates that of the US.
Hispanic immigration, and particularly from Mexico, is also characterized by its illegal character. It is estimated that during the 1990s the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S each year ranged from 105 000 (according to a binational Mexican American commission) to 350 000 (according to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service). In reaction to this massive number of illegal immigrants, the government passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This act contained provisions to legalize the status of existing illegal immigrants and to reduce future illegal immigration through employer sanction. But as the figures showed, this act failed to reduce illegal immigration.
Having explained the major reasons for the huge number of Hispanics on American soil, our analysis can now turn to the relations U.S ENGLISH has been accused of having with anti-immigration or hates groups in the 1980s.
To account for those connections, one needs to look at the history of the movement itself. In 1983, Hayakawa founded U.S ENGLISH in collaboration with Dr. John Tanton. In 1979, believing that the volume of newcomers had overloaded the nation's assimilative mechanism? (Crawford 1992), Tanton founded the Federal Association for Immigration Restriction (F.A.I.R) and served as its Chairman until 1987. F.A.I.R calls for reduction in immigration and a closer control of US borders.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, J. Tanton is said to have funded several hate groups like the Population-Environment Balance in 1973, the American Immigration Control Foundation in 1983, the American Patrol/Voice of Citizens Together in 1992, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform in 1994, the Californians for Population Stabilization in 1996, and Project USA in 199999.
In a 2009 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center entitled The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance?, Tanton was accused of having connections with White Supremacists, neo-Nazi and pro-eugenics leaders. The report mentionned in its introduction that Tanton has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were
99 POTOK, Mark, The Nativist Lobby, Three Faces of Intolerance?, Intelligence Report, Spring 2004, pp. 59- 63. Web. 5 Feb. 2010.n.p.
out breeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that, to maintain American culture, a European-American majority? is required? (Potok n.p). In February 2009, a few days after this report was published, Tanton accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of wanting to shut up or shut down any group that supports border security and enforcement of our nation's immigration laws?100. Tanton said that this report is a textbook example of special interest groups, driven by the need to scare donors into shelling out more money, resorting to repeated, vicious smears and ad hominem attacks. They seek to stifle legitimate debate over a pressing public policy issue: mass immigration?(Potok n.p).
Mark Potok wrote in a report that FAIR, under Tanton's leadership, was criticized for having been partially funded by the Pioneer Found, a foundation dedicated to improving the character of the American people? by, among other things, promoting the practice of eugenics or selective breeding(Potok n.p). Tanton also joined the Zero Population Growth, and became its national president in the mid 1970s. On its official website, Zero Population Growth advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth's resources?101.
It is important to note that the connections the movement had with some White Supremacists, Neo-Nazi and the Zero Population Growth organizations are not assumed by the movement itself but as we have seen a huge number of reports pointed out their participation in this network.
J. Tanton formed a secretive strategy group called WITAN102 in order to write a report about the non-economic consequences of immigration in California and in the rest of United States?. In this analysis, we choose to analyze an email send by J. Tanton in which he gave recommendations to his attendees on the points he wanted to talk about in the confidential memo that was then published in 1986, two years before he resigned from U.S ENGLISH.
In that e-mail, one can read: those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!? and "a region of low-native fertility combined with high immigration of high-fertility people does not make for compatible trend lines!"(Annex V). Tanton referred to Hispanics as those with their pants down?. He was worried that the high-fertility rates of the Hispanics would lead to the end of America as a white majority. Those fears were based on the population projection made by the US Census Bureau in the 1980s that said that non-
100 TANTON, John, ?Press Release: John Tanton challenges Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to Debate over 'Lies'?, 3 Feb. 2009, Web. 5 March 2010. n.p.
101 Population Connection, Goals and Mission?, 2010, Official Website, Web. 3 April 2010.
102 WITAN? from the Old English term witenagemot, or council of wise men to advise the king.
whites such as Asians, Blacks and Hispanics will outnumber whites in the United States by 2050(U.S Census Bureau 2000 n.p). Hispanic immigrants have high fertility rates compared to other ethnic minority in the United States hence a high number of children of Hispanic origins in American schools. Similarly in his monograph Hayakawa expressed his concern about the increasing size of the Spanish-speaking population of the nation.
The Hispanophobia expressed by Tanton finds its origin in this population projection but in his memo, Tanton went further when he asked: How will we make the transition from a dominant non-Hispanic society with a Spanish influence to a dominant Spanish society with a non-Hispanic influence? ... As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion? ... We're building in a deadly disunity. All great empires disintegrate, we want stability?(Annex V). In his statements, Tanton warned of a Hispanic political takeover of the United States through immigration and high birth rates. In fact, since the mid 1980s, many US voters have been reacting defensively against racial, cultural and language diversity brought by rising levels of immigration. Once again, we can draw a parallel between Tanton's memo and Hayakawa's monograph because we have now demonstrated that Hayakawa expressed his fears of an Hispanic political takeover in America.
Tanton even rounded on Hispanics in the memo when he asked: What in fact are the characteristics of Latin American culture, versus that of the United States?? and Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc.??(Annex V). He criticized and insulted Hispanics by giving them a bad reputation. He also questioned their capacity to be educated when he asked: What are the differences in educability between Hispanics (with their 50% dropout rate) and Asiatics (with their excellent school records and long tradition of scholarship)??(Annex V). As we know Hayakawa used exactly the same technique in his 1985 monograph to promote U.S ENGLISH.
A comparison between the ideas defended by Tanton in his memo and the views expressed by Hayakawa in his monograph highlights the ideological connections between U.S ENGLISH and anti-immigration groups. It is important to note that J. Tanton resigned from U.S ENGLISH in 1988 after the publication of this confidential and controversial memo about the potential impact of the high level of the Hispanic immigration. The publication of the memo created a division among the members of U.S ENGLISH which led some of them to resign. Research about the relations U.S ENGLISH were said to have with some anti-immigration, racist, pro-eugenic and even xenophobic organizations, confirms the hypothesis
that the movement may not encourage or promote immigration to the United States. In this light, we can conclude that in the late 1980s U.S ENGLISH aimed more at social control than social integration.
This network along U.S ENGLISH tends to prove that the language movement emerged from the anti-immigration movement that was headed by John Tanton. It is said that in the 1980s, much of U.S ENGLISH`s funding was funneled through John Tanton's` anti-immigration movement but this is impossible to demonstrate because U.S ENGLISH refused to disclose its funding sources between 1983 and 1998.
Over the past 15 years U.S ENGLISH has been downplaying their connections with anti-immigration groups and has adopted the rhetoric of 'English as an official language' in order to expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English. They have sought to portray themselves as moderate and have avoided language that could be considered racist or nativist.
Last but not least, it may be significantly noted the Naked Truth? or Nudas Veritas? officially supports U.S ENGLISH on their official website on which you may find a monograph written by M. Mujica in 2006, entitled Politically Incorrect but the Naked truth? in the subsection the spoiling of America?. In this monograph, one can read our battle is for our way of life in America?. Nudas Veritas103 is dedicated to fighting for America's life?. On their website, one can read the following affirmations: We must restore our constitutional republic?, America has been stolen from its American citizen?, English is our language, accept American culture or leave? or I want you to speak English or get out? (parody of Uncle's Sam war appeal). One has to be cautious because U.S ENGLISH may not acknowledge those connections but the fact that they do not refute them can also be understood as a possible relationship between the two organizations.