Is Bloomberg Building a Multilingual Mecca?

by multilingualmania on May 31, 2010

in Bilingual Politics, Bilingualism, Immigration, Language in Society, Language Policy, Politics

Back in January, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg headed into his third term, he promised to champion the cause of immigration reform through liberal laws that would facilitate a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States.  He has been as good as his word, signing executive orders to establish, as he says, “…standards for translations and interpretation services for City agencies…”, and publishing the city’s first Directory of Services for Immigrants.  In addition, as part of his “Immigrants: The Lifeblood of New York City” plan, he has committed public funds in the millions to improve the dropout rate of English Language Learners (ELLs), to offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to adults who want them, and to provide quality, affordable legal services for immigrant communities.  And he recently spoke out against the Arizona law requiring residents to show proof of citizenship upon request (if they “look” like they might be in the country illegally), calling the policy “national suicide” and stating that countries that welcome immigrants are the ones that prosper.  He has also been a strong advocate of the Dream Act, which would allow graduating high school students who have been living and learning in the U.S. to join a 6-year program to gain citizenship.  In short, he has admirably put his money where his mouth is.


But what does all of this mean for New York City (and the rest of the country)?  Statistics from the 2000 census show that the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in the state of New York was near half a million, actually only the third highest in the United States (following Texas, estimated at just over a million, and California, which came in at a whopping 2.2 million).  And that was ten years ago.  Who knows how high those numbers are today?  The point is, these people are living, working, and starting families in this country, finding a way to survive and thrive despite the unique challenges they face and the terrifying, ever-present threat of deportation.  And Mayor Bloomberg has taken the only logical stance, one that we should all get on board with.

Illegal immigrants are already here, and their numbers continue to grow.  We simply do not have the resources or intel to find them, much less deport them all, and in truth, many who are deported return again and again.  Additionally, the blending of cultures in this country is one of the many things that make our nation great.  And if you factor in that most of the people who emigrate to the U.S. do so not to beg for a handout, but to build better lives as useful and productive members of society, there seems to be no valid reason for barring them from citizenship.  Critics argue that illegal immigrants come to this country and refuse to learn the language, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Many welcome public services that will help them to assimilate.  And if they want to retain the customs of their own culture, who are we to complain?  Don’t many of us celebrate our own multi-national heritage (Saint Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, etc.)?

The United States was founded by immigrants.  Their struggle is one that we, as American citizens, should all relate to.  And it seems that New York City will be ground zero for this movement.  Mayor Bloomberg has certainly shaken up an already controversial topic with his actions and public statements on the matter.  But what he’s really doing is building on the foundation laid by our forefathers, one that allowed for people of different creeds and ethnicities to live together and form a more perfect union, embracing our differences and rejecting intolerance.  New York City may resound with the din of a million voices speaking a multitude of languages, but the sound is harmonious.  It signifies a blending of people from diverse backgrounds coming together to form a community, something that we should all embrace as we head into a future that demands a global perspective.

About the Author: Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Degrees, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.

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