Inhofe Offers English Amendment to Fraud Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), spoke on the Senate Floor to introduce a second degree amendment to Reid amendment 984 to S.386, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (FERA), that would recognize the practical reality of the role of English as our national language, makes English the national language of the United States government, a status in law it has not had before, and calls on government to preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language.

"Senator Reid has proposed an amendment that would authorize $20 million over the next two fiscal years for advertising in support of HUD programs and approved counseling agencies, providing at least $10M for Spanish-language advertisements," Senator Inhofe said. "If we are going to require that taxpayer dollars continue to go toward providing services in foreign languages, we must ensure that no entitlement is established. Senator Reid's amendment continues the liberal agenda of offering zero incentive to immigrants to learn English. I would like to see this type of spending decrease dramatically, but if the Democratic majority insists on passing this type of legislation, we have the obligation to the American taxpayer to insist that no entitlement to government services or materials in languages other than English is created.

"My amendment is an attempt to legislate a common sense language policy that a nation of immigrants needs one national language. Our nation was settled by a group of people with a common vision. As our population has grown, our cultural diversity has grown as well. 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. When members of our society cannot speak a common language, misunderstandings arise. Furthermore, the individuals who do not speak the language of the majority miss out on many opportunities to advance in society and achieve the American Dream. By establishing that there is no entitlement to receive documents or services in languages other than English, we set the precedent that English is a common to us all in the public forum of government. 

"My colleagues who have followed this debate will remember that the National Language Act of 2009 is identical to S. 2715 from the 110th Congress. It is also the same as the English amendment 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. As you can see, there is widespread and bipartisan support for this legislation, and I hope that the Senate will once again support the National Language Act."

Full Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Today I rise to introduce the National Language Act of 2009 as an amendment to the Reid amendment 984. This legislation recognizes the practical reality of the role of English as our national language, makes English the national language of the United States government, a status in law it has not had before, and calls on 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.

Let me be clear, nothing in the amendment prohibits the use of a language other than English, simply that there is no entitlement. There is no prohibition against giving Medicare services, for example, or any other government services in languages other than English. All this amendment does is simply say there is no entitlement unless Congress has explicitly provided so. This bill does not ban translation services being offered by federal employees who have the language skills to do so. Instead, it eliminates the notion that once one translation is provided to someone in one language, a legal entitlement has been created to provide translations to anyone in any language they wish. The aim is to prohibit class action lawsuits based upon perceived entitlements that some individuals claim.

The National Language Act is an attempt to legislate a common sense language policy that a nation of immigrants needs one national language. Our nation was settled by a group of people with a common vision. As our population has grown, our cultural diversity has grown as well. 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. When members of our society cannot speak a common language, misunderstandings arise. Furthermore, the individuals who do not speak the language of the majority miss out on many opportunities to advance in society and achieve the American Dream. By establishing that there is no entitlement to receive documents or services in languages other than English, we set the precedent that English is a common to us all in the public forum of government. 

I want to empower new immigrants coming to our nation by helping them understand and become successful in their new home. I believe that one of the most important ways immigrants can achieve success is by learning English.

There is enormous popular support for English as the National Language according to polling that has taken place over the last few years. 87% of Americans support making English the official language of the United States.1 77% of Hispanics believe English should be the official language of government operations.2 82% of Americans support legislation that would require the federal government to conduct business solely in English.3 74% of Americans support all election ballots and other government documents being printed in English.1 This polling data refers to making English an "official" language of the United States, or further creating an affirmative responsibility on the part of government to conduct its operations in English. While I have drafted legislation that accomplishes this as well, the National Language Act is more measured, simply stating that no entitlement shall arise to government documents or services.

OMB reported in 2002 that they could not accurately endorse any single cost estimate of providing materials and services to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) persons, but that the estimate "may be less than $2 billion, and perhaps less than $1 billion." When talking about dollar amounts of this magnitude, we know the cost is high regardless of the OMB's ability to accurately calculate, and it is likely becoming higher. If we are spending all this taxpayer money for services in a foreign language, we need to at least clarify that there is no legal entitlement to such.

My colleagues who have followed this debate will remember that the National Language Act of 2009 is identical to S. 2715 from the 110th Congress. It is also the same as the English amendment 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. As you can see, there is widespread and bipartisan support for this legislation, and I hope that the Senate will once again support the National Language Act.

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