[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: English-Only Rears Ugly Head

Monday, October 09, 2006

English-Only Rears Ugly Head

After reading this USA Today article today, I ask myself once again:

Why?

Rising concern over immigration has prompted a wave of cities and states this year to try to make English the official language.

A ballot measure is pending in Arizona. Related bills have passed houses of representatives in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan; the state senates have not taken them up. At least five cities and towns have approved ordinances; eight are considering them. The U.S. Senate included a provision in a pending immigration bill. Gubernatorial candidates in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arizona and Idaho have debated the idea.

"This is the most action we've seen in about 10 years," says Rob Toonkel of U.S. English, a group promoting English as the official language. "People are split on immigration. But on matters of assimilation, they agree immigrants should be on the road to learning English." If immigrants don't learn the language soon after arrival, he says, many never will.

"We make it easy for people to come (to the USA) and never speak English," says Louis Barletta, mayor of Hazleton, Pa., which passed an English-only ordinance last month. "We think we're helping them, but we're not."

Barletta says the measures are not anti-immigrant. Critics disagree. "They're a way of putting immigrants in their place," says Ruben Rumbaut, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. He co-wrote a study that found third-generation Americans of any ethnicity are rarely fluent in their ancestors' native tongue. What's threatened isn't English, he says, but Spanish.

Proposals vary but generally say government business must be conducted in English, with exceptions for emergency services. Federal law requires that election information be available in other languages.

"People know the key to getting ahead in this country is learning English," says John Trasvina, interim president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which opposes the official-English measures. He says they deprive people of the right to information about things such as prenatal classes and patient billing records in a language they understand.

Such proposals have been rejected in Kennewick, Wash.; Arcadia, Wis.; Avon Park, Fla.; and Clarksville, Tenn.

Some measures, several of which also set penalties for people who hire or rent to undocumented immigrants, have been challenged in court. Last month, an English referendum sought by Mayor Steve Lonegan of Bogota, N.J., died after the Bergen County clerk said Bogota had no authority to set an official language and the state Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Twenty-seven states already have laws making English their official language. According to the Census Bureau, eight in 10 U.S. residents speak only English.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Jonathan said...

Why? I think it's because a lot of Americans think that illegal immigration is a big problem, and neither political party wants to deal with it, so popular concern about illegal immigration gets channeled in directions that are essentially unproductive, like these laws. There's also a lot of popular resentment against multi-cultural education, but a lot of people are afraid to express it because they think they'll get called racists, and English-only is a safer way to express the same concerns. Reminds me a bit of France, where Le Pen, who in other times would have been written off as a racist crank, got a lot of votes because he was the only major politician who was willing to acknowledge widespread popular concerns about unassimilated Muslim immigrants.

12:45 AM, October 10, 2006  
Anonymous Alberto P. R. said...

I agree with the idea that all government documents should be solely in English. Why should ballots be printed only in Spanish? It's discriminatory to other groups. If you are a U.S. citizen, then the ballot should be in English. I live in an area overwhelmingly Mexican and lots of things are done in Spanish (poor and not so good). If folks come here to live, they should make the effort to learn the language. This is from somebody who came to this country from Cuba in '61.

12:54 AM, October 10, 2006  
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3:05 AM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger Val Prieto said...

To be honest, Im a bit ambivalent on this issue. I seriously dont understand why someone would want to not speak another language, hell, I wish I was fluent in ten languages. But then I get incredibly pissed off when I see someone working with th public that doesnt speak a lick of English. Bothers the hell outta me.

Also, for some people not making it compulsory to learn English assures that they wont. Like the case in this Wizbang post where a Mexican migrant worker that has been here inthe state for 23 years is suing the local Sherrifs departemnt because when arrested he claims that he didnt understand what the sherrifs were telling him:

http://wizbangblog.com/2006/10/09/whats-spanish-for-chutzpah.php

12:37 PM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger circuitmouse said...

Has anyone looked at how many different words in America we have around the country for the humble frying pan? The issue is largely a smoke screen, of course. It took more than 500 years to come up with a "standard" English -and nearly a thousand years before that to get the 'bastard language of Europe' as my college prof used to call it- to create the basic bones of what we think of as English. I love when the British insist that what we speak is ctually AMERICAN and not ENGLISH.

Remember 'back in the day' when imigrants on Da Beach learned to speak English with a Jewish New York accent?

2:27 PM, October 14, 2006  

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