WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the National Language Act of 2009, legislation that calls on the federal government to preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language. It clarifies that there is no entitlement to receive federal documents and services in languages other than English, unless required by statutory law, recognizing decades of unbroken court opinions that civil rights laws protecting against national origin discrimination do not create rights to government services and materials in languages other than English. Senator Inhofe’s bill would make English the national language of the United States government, a status in law it has not previously had. Furthermore, the legislation clarifies that there is no entitlement to receive federal documents and services in languages other than English, unless required by statutory law. Senator Inhofe was joined by Senators Alexander (R-Tenn.), Isakson (R-Ga.), Chambliss (R-Ga.), Burr (R-N.C.), Shelby (R-Ala.), Vitter (R-La.), Bunning (R-Ky.), Coburn (R-Okla.), Wicker (R-Miss.), DeMint (R-S.C.), Enzi (R-Wyo.), Thune (R-S.D.), Corker (R-Tenn.), and Cochran (R-Miss.) in introducing this legislation.
“Our nation was settled by a group of people with a common vision, and as our population has grown, so has our cultural diversity,” Senator Inhofe said. “This diversity is part of what makes our nation great. However, we must be able to communicate with one another so that we can appreciate our differences. By establishing that there is no entitlement to receive documents or services in languages other than English, we set the precedent that English is common to us all in the public forum of government.
“I am especially pleased to be introducing these bills today because just hours ago in my home state the Oklahoma State Legislature passed a joint resolution in support of English as the official language. This resolution, which passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by an overwhelming vote of 89 to 8 and the Senate by a vote of 44 to 2, will allow the people of Oklahoma to vote on a statewide ballot for a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of Oklahoma. I am encouraged by the State Legislature’s tireless efforts to affirm the importance of English as the unifying language in our society. Sharing the stage with 30 other states that have made English their official state language, Oklahoma has preceded the U.S. Congress in beginning to address the need for a commonality amongst a nation of immigrants. I hope that the United States Congress will follow their lead and let the voice of the people be heard – a voice that overwhelming supports English as the official language.”
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, “One of America’s greatest accomplishments is the manner in which we unite our magnificent diversity, and one way we have done that is by speaking a common language, English,” said Alexander. “The federal government should value our common language, not devalue it. We can do the right thing by establishing English as our national language so that America remains one united country.”
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said, “The English language is part of our national identity. I hope our colleagues in the Senate will support this commonsense piece of legislation.”
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said, “Americans are right celebrate our diversity, but our greatest accomplishment as a nation has been the building of a unifying culture: out of many, one. Our common language is the mortar that holds our culture together, and the gateway to citizenship and success in America. Command of the English language carries with it countless opportunities, and this bill will help ensure those opportunities are available to all Americans.”
Senator Inhofe also introduced today the English Language Unity Act of 2009, which incorporates the National Language Act and goes further by requiring that all official functions of the United States be conducted in English, requiring the establishment of a uniform language requirement for naturalization, and setting the framework for uniform testing of English language ability for candidates for naturalization. This is identical to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 997, by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), with 112 bipartisan cosponsors.
Senator Inhofe has worked in the 109th, 110th and 111th Congresses to establish English as our national language, and has garnered widespread bipartisan support each time. His bill is identical to S. 2715 from the 110th Congress, as well as the English amendments that passed the Senate in 2007 as Senate Amendment 1151, and in 2006 as Senate Amendment 4064, each being part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of each respective Congress. Senate Amendment 1151 was agreed to in the Senate by a vote of 64 – 33. Senate Amendment 4064 was agreed to in the Senate by a vote of 62 – 35.
In polling reported only a few days ago, 86% of Oklahomans favor making English the official language. 87% of Americans support making English the official language of the United States. 77% of Hispanics believe English should be the official language of government operations. 82% of Americans support legislation that would require the federal government to conduct business solely in English. 74% of Americans support all election ballots and other government documents being printed in English.
OMB estimates that the annual cost of providing multilingual assistance required by Clinton Executive Order 13166 is $1-2 billion annually.