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Speaking of Latino Immigration

August 30, 1992

That Latinos in the United States have adopted some American habits and patterns of thinking should come as no surprise ("Latinos No Longer an 'Underclass,' Researcher Says," Aug. 21) except to sociologists and poverty pimps who haven't spent any time in the real world recently.

The reason so many Latinos migrate to the United States is not for a piece of the welfare pie but for opportunity: the opportunity to work, to rise from poverty, and to become prosperous. Too many people in the government-sponsored poverty business have come to believe their own sophistry about a permanent underclass among minorities in America. Those who would join with Pat Buchanan in calling for slamming shut the borders hold equally wrongheaded ideas.

But is it too much to ask that immigrants to the United States speak, read and write English? While there is plenty of evidence that many immigrant Latinos and other non-natives wish to speak English, English as a second lanuage classes are routinely oversubscribed. Even the President seems unable to understand that full citizenship comes with the adoption of, among other things, the English language.

By allowing and even encouraging linguistic apartheid, we risk the kind of secessionists that afflicts Francophone Quebec. Los Angeles is the second-largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. The South may yet rise again, only this time it will be Southern California seeking to throw off the domination of the English-speaking federal government.

ROBERT MC MILLIN, Garden Grove

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