I was in a bar the other day when I heard these two guys talkin' in Japanese.
I got real angry and went over to them and said "Hey, this is America! Speak Spanish!"
A tacky, racist joke indeed, and one that springs to mind when I think about Project USA's call for an "immigration time out."
But at the same time, perhaps I'm jumping the gun.
Immigration is a very personal topic for me. Number one, my wife finally received her so called "green card" the other day after nearly two years of waiting.
It's actually white except for the sparkly holograms that cover most of its surface.
Also, I once was an immigrant, a foreign national living the Far East. How do you think I met my wife?
So I'm torn between sympathy for all those undergoing the struggle to come to this country or to bring their loved ones here to join them. I'm also intimately acquainted with America's horribly overburdened immigration system and I know that something is going to have to give eventually.
Here's a brief synopsis of what an "immigration time out" would entail, according to Craig Nelsen with Project USA.
Legal immigration levels would be reduced to below 300,000 per year (leaving room for the "truly persecuted," Nelsen said) and illegal immigration would be eliminated.
You know, kind of like eliminating illegal drugs.
Project USA makes some strong arguments for the timeout, a process they say the country has done before. The massive influx of aliens threatens to overload our country's infrastructure, burdening our schools with non-English speaking students, our hospitals with illegal immigrants who must be treated though they have no insurance. Even our environment is at risk as more immigrants means more space that is required for housing, thus leaving less space for the spotted leaping toad.
And then there's the age-old complaint that it impacts our "sense of community." In other words, we're becoming the land of Shinar where the Tower of Babel was built. Where once was one language, we are now confused in our speech.
That frustration among the average monolingual English speaking citizenry is incarnated in the above joke. And yet I find little sympathy for that feeling.
Firstly, I like being surrounded by foreign tongues. I enjoy the challenge of trying to understand them when possible, like when you hear a Spanish version of a familiar English song or the same warning at the airport spoken in both languages.
And then I once lived in another country where I was surrounded by people speaking a language that I initially did not understand at all. I know what that's like, but at least I'm lucky enough to speak the most commonly understood and spoken tongue in the world.
Also, bear in mind that English is one of the most difficult languages to master, as shown by the fact that half of the people born in this country can't speak it either, even though they were born to it.
Finally, the most pressing argument for Project USA's cause is security, the need to crack down on terrorists entering the country illegally.
We all have access to the panic button these days, don't we?
But something about the whole thing strikes me as simplistic and unrealistic. For example, Nelsen said the 300,000-person limit would leave room for the "truly persecuted" as if they are the only ones with the legitimate right to enter the country.
What about couples like my wife and I? We're not the only two people trying to make a life together between two different countries. What's to become of them?
And will an immigration time out really help cut back on terrorism? What about the terrorists who were born here?
And maybe, just maybe, it would be good for our children to become at least bilingual as a rule. It can be done, just ask the people of Montreal.
But it's not a simple issue and something must be done to control illegal immigration if nothing else. Let ?em go through the process like we did. At the same time, it must be done with compassion and understanding.
By the way, what's the difference between crystal and cut glass? About $500.
See, now that's a nice joke.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.