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Jewish World Review Sept. 1, 1999 /20 Elul, 5759

Don Feder

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Texas town's Spanish-only policy unamerican -- MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER, Israel Whitman, came to the United States from the Pale of Settlement speaking very little English. He quickly learned.

Grandpa would never have dreamed of demanding that the city council of Troy, N.Y., conduct its deliberations in Yiddish. Then again, when he arrived, America was still united.

We may have been a nation of immigrants, but had yet to become a multicultural boarding house and land of language fragmentation.

Which brings me to El Cenizo, Texas, population 1,500, whose government has declared that henceforth all official business will be conducted in Spanish.

Mayor Rafael Rodriguez and one of two city commissioners entered this country illegally; both are now citizens (sort of). His position notwithstanding, his honor still can't speak English. The flag of Mexico flies over city hall, along with the Stars and Stripes (for now).

El Cenizo has also decided not to cooperate with immigration officials and to fire any municipal employee who does so.

Israel M. Reyna of the federally funded Texas Rural Legal Aid heartily endorses El Cenizo's Spanish-only policy. "It is a developing democracy, opening government's doors to people. Getting people involved is the primary mission," Reyna gushes.

But what of the future of democracy, not to mention the republic, in a nation of language balkanization -- where a significant segment of the population can't understand congressional debates or read the Constitution in the language in which it was written, and whose news comes exclusively from an ax-grinding ethnic press?

Rodriguez and Reyna want America to become a bilingual nation. After all, Spanish-speakers, as we are constantly told, are the fastest growing group in America.

To gauge bilingualism's stunning success, check out our neighbor to the north. Despite years of language pandering to the Quebecois, Canada is on the brink of dissolution. In the last plebiscite, secessionists lost by less than 1 percent of the vote.

Mario Obledo, co-founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, told an interviewer that one day soon his compadres will control California's political institutions, and any gringo who doesn't like it should vamoose, pronto.

The racial/ethnic background of our leaders really doesn't matter, if they consider themselves Americans first. That the residents of El Cenizo don't is painfully apparent.

America accepts 1.2 million legal immigrants each year, and again that number of illegals. Many feel no obligation to learn our native tongue -- the language in which our national life has been conducted since the 17th century -- or our history.

They are coddled by bilingual education, dumbed-down citizenship tests, bilingual ballots, even driving tests in 20 different languages.

In El Cenizo, one glimpses a frightening future where pockets of Russians, Cambodians, Arabs, Koreans and others demand language separatism, where driving cross-country will be like traversing the European continent.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, on whose watch this happened, has yet to be heard from on El Cenizo. Guess he's too busy addressing Hispanic groups in Spanish and denouncing California's now defunct Proposition 187, which tried to stop public expenditures on illegal aliens.

The Clinton administration is equally mute. On El Cenizo's decision to punish employees who insist the dreaded la migra, Tomas Zuniga, spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service's regional headquarters in Dallas, nonchalantly comments, "We are going to sit back and see how it unfolds."

One who hasn't lost his tongue (and whose native tongue happens to be Spanish) is Mauro Mujica, chairman of U.S. English. "This is what happens when the federal government refuses to patrol the border and politicians pander for the so-called Hispanic vote," says Mujica, who emigrated from Chile in 1965. "Let me be blunt: It is simply un-American for an American town to declare a Mexican identity."

If Andy Jackson -- Old Hickory, who faced down South Carolinians intent on nullifying federal law -- were president, he'd march an army down to El Cenizo, strike the Mexican flag, tell them, "You're Americans, damn it, start acting like it," and hang a few folks to make his point.

But in place of the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, we have a committed multiculturalist in the White House and Gov. Pander Bear leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate