Speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden on Thursday, President Donald Trump announced plans for an overhaul to the U.S. immigration system, including replacing green cards with a “Build America Visa” system and requiring applicants to learn English.
Here’s what we know
In his speech, Trump said that the new “Build America Visa” would be merit-based and use a point system that would prioritize younger applicants.
“You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill and offer of employment and advanced education or a plan to create jobs,” he said.
“Finally,” he concluded, “to promote integration, assimilation and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission.”
Trump said his plan would “transform America’s immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world.”
He said that Democrats were proposing open borders and “lawless chaos” but that his administration’s plan “puts the jobs, wages, and safety of American workers first.”
Isn’t English already the national language?
Despite the prevalence of English, the U.S. does not actually have an official language. There have been several attempts to change that over the years, but they have all ended up failing.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. residents speak around 350 different languages at home. After English and Spanish (37,458,470 speakers), some of the most widely spoken languages are Chinese (2,896,766 speakers), Vietnamese (1,399,936), Korean (1,117,343), French (1,307,742), French Creole (739,725), and Italian (708,966 speakers).
And it’s not only immigrants speaking foreign languages. In addition to Native American and Creole communities, the Pennsylvania Dutch community has kept a version of German alive for centuries.
According to a 2015 study, immigrants today have proven quicker to pick up the language than those during the 20th century. And even when first generation immigrants struggle to learn English, their children overwhelmingly are fluent in it.