Date: Thu, 14 Sep 1995 16:20:17 -0500


Subject: Re: FOR English Only

I thought it might be useful to review exactly what is involved in the proposed

"English only" legislation--especially since the author of H.R. 739 is Toby

Roth, the congressman from my district here in Wisconsin. Mr. Roth and I have

traded guest editorials on the subject in the local paper, and I presented a

mock debate to the Wisconsin TESOL group last spring. (Mr. Roth couldn't come,

so I quoted his remarks from the Congressional Record to represent his side of

the debate.)

Here are the particulars of the proposed Declaration of Official Language Act,

word for word (minus the various section numbers and headings):

English is the official language of the government of the United States.

English is the preferred language of communication among citizens of the United

States. The Government of the United States shall promote and support the use

of English for communications among United States citizens. Communications by

officers and employees of the Government of the United States shall be in

English. All United States citizens should be encouraged to read, write, and

speak English to the extent of their physical and mental abilities. It has been

the long-standing national belief that full citizenship in the United States

requires fluency in English. English is the language of opportunity for all

immigrants to take their rightful place in American society.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service shall enforce the established

English language proficiency standard for all applicants for United States

citizenship and conduct all naturalization ceremonies entirely in English. This

chapter does not apply to the use of a language other than English for

religious purposes, training in foreign languages for international

communication, or use of non-English terms of art in government documents. This

chapter preempts any State or Federal law which is inconsistent with this

chapter. This Act is not intended to affect programs in schools designed to

encourage students to learn foreign languages. Whoever is injured by a

violation of this chapter may, in a civil action, obtain appropriate relief. In

any action under this chapter, the court may allow a prevailing party, other

than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of costs.

The table of chapters for Title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at

the end the following new item: Repeals: (1) Bilingual education: Title VII of

the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (other than Sections 7201

through 7309) is repealed. (2) Bilingual ballot: Section 203 of the Voting

Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a) is repealed.

[end of quotation]

Thus, H.R. 739 would not only identify English as the official language of the

government of the United States; it would repeal the present requirements for

bilingual education and for ballots in languages other than English and would

exclude the use of languages other than English in providing government

services (Mr. Roth calls them "non-English languages.")

For me, then, the key questions are these: 1) what is the effect of identifying

English as the official language of the United States (does it, for example,

diminish other languages--and will their speakers also feel diminished); 2)

what is the effect of repealing the a/m sections of Title VII (Mr. Roth claims

that bilingual education is ineffective); 3) what is the effect of prohibiting

government workers from providing services in any language other than English

(does this include medical services, for example); and 4) what is the effect of

abolishing the use of ballots in languages other than English (are anyone's

voting rights compromised)?

I know that other bills are also before the Congress, but I am less familiar

with their details. However, I hope that the details of H.R. 739 will be

helpful to our discussion.