A state of hostility and fear persisted against Mexican Americans and immigrants in general. The government of the time greatly feared retention of language and culture by the immigrants would be a serious threat to the national cohesion of the United States. It was thought that the adoption of English as the first language of the second generation immigrants and the abandonment of original languages was essential to save the country’s future.
Many steps were taken to suppress the use of languages other than English (Tatalovich, 1995). The motivation for these action was not only the anti-immigrant fear pervading the country but also the Functionalist school of thought, the proponents of which argued that in order to become fully functional members of the host society, the immigrants must undergo complete social, economic and cultural assimilation into the society (Feldman & Huddy, 2005). The United States congress passed legislation requiring English language fluency for citizenship 1906.During the First World War, the government’s anxiety over immigrants speaking their native languages rose to a new height. In the states of Iowa and South Dakota the use of any language other than English in public places or over the phone was banned (Piatt, 1990). In 1919, the state of Nebraska forbade schools from teaching any language other than English prior to ninth grade. The common sentiment regarding immigrants is that upon immigration people should completely abandon their native culture and language and adopt the American English as their primary language (Citrin & Sears, 2001). Particularly in the American South, there exists a great amount of hostility towards the Spanish language with numerous popular efforts to forbid progressive efforts such as the teaching of Spanish in schools and multi-lingual road signs (Tatalovich, 1995). This is often tied in with an anti-immigration stance and the religious hostility against the Catholic Church exhibited by various protestant extremist denominations which see the Catholic Church as ‘The Whore of Babylon’ mentioned in the bible (Rev. 17:1–6).
In many parts of the United States, Hispanic Americans are likely to face discrimination unless their surnames do not reflect a Hispanic heritage and their physical features and English accent allows them to pass themselves off as Anglos. The functionalist model of immigrant assimilation may have worked for German and Italian immigrants, but it is unlikely to work for most Hispanic immigrants due to their obvious differences in physical features with the majority.
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