Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced a bill today requiring that all illegal immigrants in the United States "Americanize" their names.
According the legislation drafted by Rep. Steve King (R - Iowa) only immigrants who agree to take English surnames like "Smith" and "Anderson" will be allowed to apply for citizenship under any future comprehensive immigration reform.
The bill - dubbed the Protection of American Names Act (PANA) - has already attracted 75 co-sponsors. House Speaker John Boehner has agreed to Tea Party demands that no immigration law will pass this year without the provision.
Although the bill is expected to face withering criticism from immigrants' rights groups, King vigorously defended his bill in a speech on the House floor.
"When I was growing up immigrants had the decency to change their names," he said. "There was a Polish family down the block originally named the Wozinskys, but everybody called them the Walters. There was a Swiss family across the street named the Friedmans, but everybody called them the Jews.
"Nowadays I can't pronounce a single name these immigrants are coming up with. Menéndez? Gómez? Rodríguez? Núñez? How are we supposed to take these people seriously with names like these? They don't even use real letters."
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There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States awaiting Congressional action to regularize their status. Democrats have largely been favorable to allowing a "pathway to citizenship" for these individuals, while most Republicans are opposed.
A compromise bill in the Senate provides for such a pathway, but puts an increasingly heavy restrictions on the process. Under the Senate's proposal immigrants must pass a background check, pay back taxes and wait 10 years before even applying for citizenship - a clock which starts counting only after "the border is secure."
But even those restraints aren't good enough for conservative Republicans in the House, who increasingly see the influx of Hispanic immigrants as a threat to Anglo-American culture.
"If these people want to be part of America, they need to start sounding like Americans," King continued. "It's time for Señor Martinez to become Mr. Martin. And Señorita Hernandez should become Ms. Henderson.
"This isn't a cleaning business we're running here, it's a country. And the United States of America was founded on the dual principles of hostility to immigration and a love for all things English.
"Citizenship isn't a right, it's a privilege. And the least these illegals could do to earn that privilege is help the rest of us original Americans pronounce their names."
Although the process of Anglicizing last names has a long history in the United States, it was never official policy. If passed PANA, officially known as House Bill 1601, would be the first time such a mandate is enacted into law.