I spent the last week away from home, and since internet access was very limited, I decided to take a short break from publishing anything. But as I was driving over 2,000 miles in a week, I had some time to think about some subjects. Writing down thoughts as you are driving is a bad idea.

While I was away, I was happy to know that my friend Podkayne was stopping by to get some rest on her own long journey. I knew no one else would be at the house, so I made sure she had a key to the place. She was a welcome guest in my home, and I could trust her not to run off with the good silver. Better than that, she even did some dishes for me! Thanks, Podkayne!

I hope you have family and friends whom you trust enough to use your guest bed if they need it, whether you are there to watch over them or not. But how would you feel if a non-invited person were to enter your home, sleep in your bed, and eat up your food? Whether this unwanted person used a key to unlock the front door, entered through an open window, or used a brick to smash open a lock, there is a name for someone who enters your home uninvited: intruder!

Our nation is our home, and we should be just as concerned about people crossing our borders as we would be about people entering our home at will during the day or night. This is why I’m upset to see how President Bush is failing to fix the issue of illegal aliens in the United States. President Vincente Fox of Mexico made a statement recently that Mexicans (read that as illegal aliens) do work that not even Blacks would do. While this is an offensive statement to Blacks, it also shows Fox’s belief that it is both just and right for his countrymen to break laws to cross illegally into the U.S. And it’s no wonder — the wages that move from the U.S. to Mexico are the second largest money-making industry for Mexico. Fox isn’t going to cut off his national gravy train by stopping Mexicans from crossing into the U.S. Yet it is interesting that the Mexican government is not so lax on its own southern border.

Mexico is not a country starved of resources or filled with lazy people. In the two years I lived in Mexico, I saw hard-working people, but they were prevented from doing as much as they could because of government corruption. When a country offers freedom and protection of people’s rights and property, economic success will follow. Can you point out any country where this is not the case?

Don’t expect to see much from the U.S. government to stem the flood of illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. There is a perception that doing anything against illegal aliens will be seen as an attack on Hispanics who already live in the U.S., but if I were someone from Mexico who had entered legally into the States, I’d be both ashamed of how other Mexicans are illegally crossing into the country and angry that their illegal actions are reflecting negatively on myself. Why is it that the legal immigrants are not policing out the illegals who are crossing into the States?

Could it be that this isn’t happening because the legal immigrants are not identifying themselves as Americans first? There is a very simple reason why Mexicans — or any other group, for that matter — don’t feel like they fit into the larger society, and it isn’t because of skin color. It is language.

English is the common language here in the United States, but it is possible to enter enclaves where Spanish is the only language spoken. In a situation like that, you could spend your whole life never needing to learn English, but there is a limitation to living that way — you are stuck in that enclave. Leaving the enclave requires learning a new language, and choosing not to learn English means you are limited to certain jobs, certain places to live and shop, and certain opportunities you can provide your children. Do you really want to place limitations on your children? You will, if you never learn to speak English.

Before I visited Singapore for the second time, I spent several months studying spoken and written Chinese. I never got very good at it, and I realized that it didn’t help me all that much since I was practicing Mandarin, and all the friends I met in Singapore spoke either Cantonese or Hokkien at home. Also, the traditional characters I learned to read and write were different from the simplified Chinese used in Singapore. This island nation has four official languages: Chinese, Malay, English, and Tamil. It was fun watching the same commercial on TV done in four different languages. Because Singapore is as polyglot as it is, I didn’t feel as bad that I didn’t learn the right version of spoken Chinese, but at least I made the attempt.

I lived in Germany for three years. We could have lived on the military base with the rest of the Americans, but we preferred to live in a small town away from the base. Frau Roch spoke excellent English, having lived in the States for several years. Our landlord had a working English vocabulary of about 400-500 words, and it is amazing how much information you can communicate with that many words. Frau Fuchs didn’t speak a word of English, but over time we were able to talk with her in halting sentences. Frau Roch confessed that even she had a hard time talking to Frau Fuchs because of her old-fashioned accent. While I never became perfectly fluent in German, I got good enough to travel about, and I didn’t have problems buying items in the stores. People even stopped me to ask for directions, and assuming I knew where the place was, I was happy to direct them. My main limitation to learning better German came from spending most of my time in my own English-speaking enclave. High school was all in English, my family and friends all spoke English with each other, and my job was in English. But notwithstanding all that, I made a good attempt at learning the language of the land.

I spent only two years in Mexico, but my Spanish became much better than my German ever did, even with the extra year living in Germany. Since I didn’t live in a little English-speaking enclave, I had to learn Spanish as fast as I could just to be understood. It took much study and practice, but I became very fluent in Spanish. I remember visiting a cement tile factory and talking with the head craftsman there. He thought that I, with my blond hair, was a native-speaking albino rather than an American gringo. I knew I was really speaking Spanish well when the people stopped noting how good my Spanish was and just talked with me. At one point I was so immersed in Spanish that speaking English became very difficult. I had to really think hard to speak in English with the occasional Americans I encountered, or I would just lapse back into Spanish.

If I had to depend on people speaking English to me while I lived in Mexico, I couldn’t have traveled through the northern states as I did. I would have been stuck at home with books and whatever English TV or radio I could find. My opportunities would have been very limited, and I probably would have been frustrated to tears being stuck in my little area. It was very hard work for me to learn Spanish, but the effort was well worth the time and the struggle. And since I was the minority in the country, it was up to me to learn the people’s language.

I don’t care where you emigrated from; now that you are here in the United States, the first thing you should do is learn English. It’s the best thing you can do for your own future and for the future of your children.

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