Keeping Multilingualism at Bay
By Phil Kent
Jackson, N.Y. (pop. 1,718) has been conducting its government business in English for almost 200 years. That’s why its Town Council passed an ordinance designating English as its official language of government. But that didn’t set well with liberals and multiculturalists. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently bullied the town to repeal its ordinance or be sued on trumped-up “discrimination” charges. Even though cities with English ordinances like Hazelton, Pa., have beaten legal challenges, Jackson had no money to defend itself. Sadly, it surrendered.
Even so, polls indicate that over 87 percent of the American people support English as the official language of government operations. Many localities and 31 states have adopted such laws. This is because English has never been designated as the official language of government of the United States.
It’s gratifying, therefore, that U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has introduced H.R. 997 requiring that all official functions of government will be conducted in English. H.R. 1715 has also been introduced by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to ascertain the rising cost of providing translators and interpreters for people who refuse to learn English. Foxx notes that federal agencies don’t report how much they spend on services for non-English speakers, so H.R. 1715l simply requires accountability in this area.
There is another aspect to the problem of multilingualism, underscored by this year’s release of new census data. Its origin goes back to 1975, when Congress foolishly expanded the Voting Rights Act by inserting bilingual ballot provisions for four so-called “language minorities”: American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaskan Natives and citizens of Spanish heritage. States and counties were mandated to provide ballots and election materials “in the language of the applicable minority group” if their population exceeded 10,000 people or more than five percent of all voting age citizens of these groups live in a jurisdiction.
This expensive and arbitrary law means that every municipality within a covered jurisdiction must provide multilingual election materials, even if everyone there speaks English. But hold on! The federal government requires immigrants to learn English in order to be citizens. So forcing unfunded mandates on states and localities to print foreign-language ballots for citizens who are already required by law to speak English is truly an absurdity.
The population growth of these “language minorities” means more money will be wasted. In 2002, to cite just one example, Los Angeles County taxpayers were gouged for $3.3 million to underwrite foreign language election materials. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to allow the small number of U.S. citizens who require assistance to just bring someone to the polling place to help them?
It seems the only reason for the mandatory provision of foreign language ballots would be to encourage voting by non-citizens. Bilingual ballots undermine the value of citizenship and the integrity of the naturalization process by removing a major incentive for immigrants to learn English. Congress must therefore eliminate this outdated Voting Rights Act provision, especially since the nation is drowning in debt. And, to protect English as our common tongue, it should also pass the King and Foxx bills.
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