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Antiaffirmative action Proposition 209 in 1996 had a similarly divisive effect on the state's population. (Heikkila & Pizarro, 2002, p. 8)
The propositions do not welcome immigration, a commonplace occurrence on the official and unofficial level in California but attempt to force such immigrants to assimilate and follow the letter of the law in order to get ahead, and as for 209 sometimes that might not even be enough. (Clark, 1998, p. 28)
Immigrants to the United States have diverse national origins but it is the link with Mexico that defines much of the immigration process in the late 20th century. The United States is the predominant destination of immigrants from Mexico and Central America; as we have seen, most of those immigrants settle in California. Between 1980 and 1995 more than 3 million people migrated from Mexico to the United States. Two million of those, nearly 20% of Mexico's net population growth, came to California. In 1995 about 2 to 4 million of Mexico's 30 million workers relied on the U.S. labor market for most of their annual earnings (Martin, 1995). (Clark, 1998, p. 29)
Race is a divisive social issue that is often reiterated in the legal arena in this nation and is likely to be answered with the common American answer of economics. It costs to much to educate illegal immigrants and it costs to much (to the majority) to allow them to be given special treatment in employment and/or education, once again forming the eventual basis for reiterative powerlessness, such as is seen in race riots and other violence.
The strength of cultural diversity depends on the delicate balance of competing groups. The reaction to Proposition 187 can be viewed as a response to a perceived disturbance in this delicate balance and a consequent fear of divisions fueled by ethnic rivalry. The data on voting behavior also suggest that local Californian concerns about mass migration are at odds with national policies governed by diverse agendas, including civil libertarians' concerns about a national commitment to the role of the United States as a nation of immigrants, and big business's (especially agricultural interests) desire for open immigration as a continuing source for low-cost labor. (Clark, 1998, p. 177)
Though proposition 187 was blocked based on it being deemed unconstitutional the population in California voted it in by 59%. (Clark, 1998, p. 174) There is no real evidence that the proposition has changed the flow of immigration into California or the U.S. In a broader sense, especially since it was blocked. ("HUMAN TSUNAMI; California Reels," 2004, p. A01) the later legislation 209, removing affirmative action as a decisive force in the admittance decisions and hiring decisions in higher education, had a more limited effect but is also debated by both groups. The reasoning is that it is not helping the people it was intended to help and that it should therefore not be sanctioned to exclude other more qualified applicants, presumably white. "An emphasis on dominance is likely to do no more than replace one power broker with another, whereas an emphasis on cooperation may resolve future social and ethnic tensions." (Clark, 1998, p. 188)
Another example of racial division can be found in the national movement to designate English as the official language, first on the national level and then later, when that failed on a state by state basis, interestingly a consistent political tactic used by civil rights movements, (e.g. abolition of slavery, ERA, women's suffrage, the fight against Jim Crow laws and black suffrage rights and even universal suffrage by age 18). Each of these issues has been successfully made into federal constitutional law. At this stage the movement is having state successes across the nation, and will likely be voted on the federal level very soon, and excluding the ERA the historical success of this tactic will likely be proved once again on this issue. The website for the official movement, U.S. English www.us-english.org and the history of the movement itself is described in a historical manner in the following statement:
In 1983 Senator S.I. Hayakawa (D-Calif.), seeing the disaster that Canada's bilingualism had created and the newly legislated bilingual education efforts in the United States, founded the organization U.S. English. Its primary goal is to help the nation pass a constitutional amendment that will make English the official language of the United States. Hayakawa, born of Japanese parents in Canada, a naturalized American citizen, and a one-time professor of semantics, more than most knew the value of a common language. The proposed amendment reads: "Section 1. The English language shall be the official language of the United States. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Given the predominantly liberal composition of the U.S. Congress in the 1980s and early 1990s, this proposed amendment never made it out of committee and thus neither the House nor the Senate could vote on it. (Schmidt, 1997, p. 121)
Schmidt goes on to explain that the force of the ideology behind the movement is consistent with the dominant cultural ideology of maintaining the U.S. As an English speaking nation, filled with English speaking people.
Determined multiculturalist opponents of U.S. English frequently and falsely accuse the movement of trying to legislate an "English only" law, meaning that the organization's members want to outlaw all languages except English in the United States. U.S. English has no such intent, as the proposed amendment clearly indicates. Its supporters only want to preserve the country's national unity through the use and retention of one common language. They also do not believe it is government's function to provide funds for bilingual education. If individuals want to learn a foreign language, they may certainly do so, but at their own financial cost. Neither U.S. English nor the proposed amendment has the slightest objection to any one learning more than one language. (Schmidt, 1997, p. 121)
Harkening back to the advice given by Thomas Jefferson, quoted at the beginning of this work the individual can see the issues at hand, as forcing assimilation, might make some people feel better in the line at the grocery store but does not respond well to the growing diversity of the nation.
As a point of conclusion, the U.S. Patriot Act, must be discussed, as it is a more modern representation of the ideas associated with the backlash to the multiculturalism and the open society of the U.S. The value of the act, went unquestioened as it was signed into law, because of the state of the nation, upon its enactment. The validity of the argument in this work is that the nation is comprised of countless diverse ideologies, oversimplified into the left and right. The hope with the Patriot act is that the middle ground is sought and its issues are adjusted and corrected as is necessary, a clear example of the manner in which the nation as a whole will find answers to the issues it finds most pressing, multiculturalism included.
Then came September 11, 2001, and we learned that a major reason why it occurred was that the FBI lacked various powers, its agents feared to act, the Department of Justice kept it on a fairly tight leash, and a fire wall existed between it and the CIA. The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act and several other measures that followed, as we shall see, removed many of these restraints. These acts corrected previous overcorrections to prior misconduct. In the process, authorities went too far in the other direction and they are being corrected yet again. To illustrate, following public outcry led by the ACLU and similar organizations, the Justice Department made important clarifications about the originally vague nature of military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. Similarly, Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), which encouraged Americans to spy on one another, had such frightening implications that it was quickly scrapped. Also scrapped due to privacy concerns was the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II), which would have allowed government officials to collect personal information about airline passengers in order to identify who may pose as a security risk. Surely, more adjustment will be needed in the future and will in effect take place daily, but we are groping for that middle ground rather than allowing extremists from either side to push us off the road. In the words of Laura Murphy, head of the Washington, D.C. office of the ACLU, "We're not asking for wholesale repeal of t
Clark, W.A. (1998). The California Cauldron: Immigration and the Fortunes of Local Communities. New York: Guilford Press.
Etzioni, a. (2004). How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom vs. Security in the Age of Terrorism. New York: Routledge.
Gribbin, a. (2002, April 1). Iowa Makes English Official; Advocates Believe That English Is the Glue That Unites Social Groups and Nurtures Civic Responsibility. Insight on the News, 18, 29.…[continue]
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