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House Bill Would Declare English Official Language

Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM

The English Language Unity Act of 2001, if enacted, would require "nearly all federal official government business to be conducted in English, and all documents to be printed in English, while protecting individual constitutional rights. Exceptions would include documents to protect public health and safety, law enforcement, court translations and tourism."

Applauding the legislation was the group U.S. English, which wants to preserve the "unifying role of the English language in the United States," and Chairman Mauro Mujica said the legislation "would encourage assimilation."

"Official English would encourage immigrants, giving them an incentive to learn English and to assimilate. If all government services are provided in other languages, the urgency to learn English would be gone," said Mujica. "Without English, immigrants have little chance of obtaining decent wage-earning jobs, which statistically hurts their children's success in this country."

Mujica said she speaks from personal experience on the importance of learning English in a country that is predominantly English speaking. "As an immigrant whose mother tongue is Spanish, I can testify first-hand that English is indeed the key to opportunity in America," Mujica said.

Mujica said the need for a uniform language standard is demonstrated by the sheer number of dialects spoken by Americans of various ethnic backgrounds. "In a country which is becoming more diverse, and where 329 languages are spoken, we must have one common official language in order to unite, and communicate with each other," she said.

The measure making English the official language would only effect government operations, and would not apply to private businesses or organizations, churches, or private speech. According to Mujica, 26 states have declared English as their official state government language.

But the idea of making English the official language of the U.S. has its opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes English only laws.

An ACLU statement bases the group's opposition to such laws on the concern that "English Only laws... can abridge the rights of individuals who are not proficient in English, and because they perpetuate false stereotypes of immigrants and non-English speakers."

The liberal group also invokes the Founders in its opposition, claiming that making English the official language of the U.S. would be "contrary to the spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in our Constitution."

Another stated concern of the ACLU is that the creation of a uniform language standard might result in the "social isolation" of some immigrants. "The bond that unites our nation is not linguistic or ethnic homogeneity but a shared commitment to democracy, liberty, and equality," the ACLU said.

(C)

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The English Language Unity Act of 2001, if enacted, would require nearly all federal official government business to be conducted in English, and all documents to be printed in English, while protecting individual constitutional rights. Exceptions would include documents...
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2001-00-29
Tuesday, 29 May 2001 12:00 AM
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