Is Congress as dysfunctional a family as those seen on soap operas? The House of Representatives passed a sober border and interior enforcement legislation with no new guest worker programs. The Senate veered in the opposite direction by granting amnesty “and a path to citizenship” to millions who snuck across our borders and, in another bout of insanity, allowing them to collect Social Security benefits accrued while using fake Social Security numbers.
While on this reckless political acid trip, a Senate majority also did the unthinkable. Bowing to the vocal “multicultural” lobby, it gutted an amendment by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Ok., designating English our national language for government operations.
According to a March 2006 poll by Zogby International, 84 percent of likely voters agree English must be our official language for government operations. The same poll ironically indicates most Americans mistakenly believe English already is our official language.
Aside from the fact that assimilation and ?Americanization? have been crucial to our success as a heterogeneous nation, not having English as the sole official language is creating miscommunication among people, adding to mounting taxpayer expense and even posing a serious public safety hazard.
For example, an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton (E.O. 13166) requires federal agencies and funds recipients to provide translations and interpreters for non-English speakers in their native language – at taxpayer expense. Also, what is common sense to most people is not to many state officials charged with the duty of protecting public safety. In state after state, they are caving into pressure from “immigrants’ rights” groups to make driver’s license examinations and manuals available not only n Spanish but in many other languages. (Even a state like Alabama with comparatively few immigrants gives written driver’s license exams in a dozen foreign languages, including Arabic.)
The predictable result? There is a growing number of accidents on our highways attributable to the fact that all too many immigrants, both legal and illegal, don’t understand traffic signs in English. One ethnic special interest group in Virginia derailed a bill requiring written driver’s license exams to be in English this year by claiming tests in English alone violated Clinton’s multilingual executive order.
The Wall Street Journal has reported on the incredible mess the European Union has made trying to accommodate and operate in 20 languages spoken by its 25 current members. The Texas city of El Cenizo has changed its official language from English to Spanish. Miami-Dade County in Florida operates with both official English and Spanish. How long is it going to be before state and national lawmakers start demanding simultaneous translations of all proceedings in Spanish? Accommodating such a demand would naturally lead to calls for the same treatment by other linguistic groups. Politicians, afraid of appearing to -discriminate, would take the path of least resistance and soon we would land right where the European Union is today.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world without an official language. Fifty-one countries located mostly in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have already designated English their official language. Why shouldn’t we?
Hopefully, the House and Senate can reconcile their radically different versions and pass overdue reform to restore control over our broken and increasingly dangerous borders. While doing so, House-Senate conferees should reinsert Inhofe’s English amendment. Then both chambers — reflecting the will of the vast majority of Americans– should finally vote to make English our national language.
Phil Kent of Atlanta serves on the advisory board of the Arlington, Va.-based ProEnglish.