May 18, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) today, with bipartisan support, introduced his National English Amendment (S.A. 4064) to the Senate Immigration Reform Act (S. 2611) to make English the national language of the United States, except where use of another language is authorized or provided by law. Such exceptions currently include: natural disaster emergency evacuation (i.e. Hurricane Katrina) and a defendant’s right to an interpreter in U.S. Courts.
“For over twenty years they have tried to make English the national language,” Inhofe said. “For many of those years I have listened to constituents at my town hall meetings ask, ‘why can’t we get this done?’ Well today we are going to succeed.
“This is not just about preserving our culture and heritage, but also about bettering the odds for our nation’s newest potential citizens. As the President said recently, ‘English allows newcomers to go from cleaning offices to running offices,’ I could not agree more.
“Recent polling established that a diverse majority, 84 percent of all Americans, agree with making English the national language, including 77 percent of Hispanics. Polling also concludes that 92 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats and Independents all support recognizing English as the national language.
“Under current law a naturalization candidate must demonstrate a simple, ‘understanding of the English language.’ However, the exam is not uniform and this subjective standard is both arbitrary and unfair. The Department of Homeland Security is currently reviewing the citizenship exam given to prospective citizens. My amendment offers specific goals for that redesign, focusing primarily on the applicants’ understanding of the English language and knowledge of American civics and history. By creating a uniform exam we ensure that all applicants have the same opportunity to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English and American history, while maintaining a fair and equal standard for naturalizing new citizens.”
Widespread U.S. polling supports making English the national language with a recent Zogby poll showing 84% support overall, including 71% of Hispanics. Currently, 27 states and 51 nations have made English their official language. Furthermore, the Office of Management and Budget estimates that it costs taxpayers between $1-2 billion to provide language assistance under President Clinton’s Executive Order 13166 that created the entitlement to services provided in any language other than English.
Inhofe’s amendment requires those naturalizing to become a U.S. citizen pass a uniform English examine created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); instructs DHS as to the goals for redesigning the citizenship exam, focusing on the English language and knowledge of American civics and history.