Tags: Iowa | Passes | English-Only | Measure

Iowa Passes English-Only Measure

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:00 AM

The bill now goes to Gov. Tom Vilsack for his signature.

Vilsack has criticized the bill as lacking substance because it provides no funding to teach English to those for whom English is not their first language, but has nevertheless indicated he will sign the measure.

"We all agree that everyone who lives and works here should be proficient in English because it is the language that unites us, and it is the language of opportunity," Vilsack said in a statement. "But the true test is whether the Legislature stands by its commitment to provide the resources to help people actually learn English. Without that commitment, this is a symbol without substance."

Republicans maintain the bill will cut costs, allowing state literature to be printed in a single language.

There are several exceptions, however, including driver's education materials, trade and tourism documents, and documents dealing with the rights of victims of crimes, criminal defendants and constitutional issues.

To accommodate Vilsack, a companion bill provides $1.4 million for English as a Second Language classes in the 2003-04 school year. That bill still must win Senate approval.

Rep. Dwayne Alons of Hull, who led the House effort, compared the state to a salad.

"When you put together your salad ... the one item that really brings it together is a dressing," Alons said. "For Iowa, I believe English is that one ingredient for us."

Des Moines Democrat Jack Hatch said Iowa welcomed everyone. "Whether or not you know it, your bill resonates a different message, a message which none of us really appreciates or wants," he said.

A December Des Moines Register poll indicated 81 percent of Iowans favored the measure. Twenty-six states not counting Iowa have similar laws.

Mauro E. Mujica, chairman and CEO of the Washington-based U.S. English, hailed the measure.

"Making English the state's official language is a victory for all Iowans," Munica said in a statement. "... All Iowans will benefit from this common-sense legislation: Taxpayers will save money, immigrants will be encouraged to learn English and everyone will be able to communicate with each other."

U.S. English, a citizen action group founded by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, worked with Iowa lawmakers to gain approval of the bill.

"Only by giving people a common language can we ensure that everyone has an equal chance to go as far as their skills, talent and dreams take them," Mujica said.

Des Moines immigration attorney Ta-Yu Yang said the bill was just an example of the Republican Party flexing its political muscle.

"Time and time again, they have sought to cram this bill down our throats despite their failure in years past," he told the Register. "Do they have an idea that this is a bill not welcomed by Americans and Iowans with some vision? Of course they do."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The bill now goes to Gov. Tom Vilsack for his signature. Vilsack has criticized the bill as lacking substance because it provides no funding to teach English to those for whom English is not their first language, but has nevertheless indicated he will sign the measure. ...
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2002-00-26
Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:00 AM
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