English as the National Language Senate Floor

  Mr. President, there are many things we take for granted that have made our Nation prosperous. The Founding Fathers spent their lives seeking to create a United States of America that could survive against the great powers of England, France, and Spain.
   These men knew that America had at least one advantage over the European powers: size. President Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase of 1803 effectively doubled the size of the United States and provided a means by which America's inland farmers would have a guaranteed way to ship their products to market.
   Even today, the comparison remains striking when you ask, ``How far will one gallon of fuel move one ton of freight?''
   One gallon of fuel can move a ton of freight 59 miles by truck and 386 miles by rail. That same gallon of fuel will move a ton of freight by water 522 miles.
   One of the main reasons for the economy of waterborne shipping lies in something physics students know as friction and we pilots know as drag.
   The more that friction or drag increase, the more that fuel economy decreases. There is a lot of friction between a road and a truck. There is far less between a ship and a river.
   This simple rule led me to lead the fight for the Water Resources Development Act a few days ago. As one of the most fiscally conservative Members of this body, I have long argued that the two most important functions of the Federal Government are to provide for national defense and public infrastructure.
   Efficiency and economics require the Government to not only plan but to construct and maintain public infrastructure. Investments in real public infrastructure, like waterways and barge canals, create economies of scale that have made the American economy a wonder of the world.
   My determination to stand up in this Chamber at every opportunity on behalf of national defense and public infrastructure is a large part of the reason I am introducing legislation today to make English America's official language.
   A common means of communication has created one giant market for goods and labor from Maine to California. A resident of Tulsa can seek work in New Hampshire, Oregon, or Georgia without having to learn a second language. A company based in Oklahoma City can readily sell its products from Portland, ME, to Los Angeles, CA.
   In Europe, by contrast, a resident of Berlin cannot look for work in Paris or
Warsaw without surmounting considerable language barriers. A German company cannot easily sell its products in Madrid, again, in part because of the language barrier.
   The European Union is an effort to create a United States-like common market in Western Europe, among other things. Europeans are spending billions of euros to try to replicate what we Americans have enjoyed for free these past 230 years.
   There are too many signs that we are allowing this great advantage of an American nation united by a common language to slip through our fingers.
   President Bill Clinton created the most radical language policy 6 years ago when he signed Executive Order--E.O.--13166 on August 11, 2000.
   E.O. 13166 declared that all recipients of Federal funds had to be ready to provide all services in any language anyone wished to speak at any time.
   E.O. 13166 means that while Canada has only two official languages and the United Nations just six, the United States now has over 200 official languages.
   Efforts to repeal E.O. 13166 have run aground because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what repeal would mean.
   After the debate on my official English amendment, S.A. 4064, to the Senate immigration bill, S. 2611, E.J. Dionne, Jr., told readers of the May 23 Washington Post that he was still going to pray over his children in French. I have only one word to say to Mr. Dionne: relax.
   Neither my earlier amendment to the immigration legislation nor the legislation I am introducing today will have any impact whatsoever on the prayers of the Dionne family or, for that matter, a dinner table chat in Spanish or a family discussion in Navajo.
   Official English laws are not directed at the language people themselves choose to speak but, rather, in what language the Government speaks to the American people.
   My bill basically recognizes the practical reality of the role of English as our national language. It states explicitly that English is our national language and provides English a status in law it has not before held.
   Making English the official language will clarify that there is no entitlement to receive Federal documents and services in languages other than English . My legislation declares that any rights of a person, as well as services or materials in languages other than English , must be authorized or provided by law. It recognizes the decades of unbroken court opinions that civil rights laws protecting against national origin and discrimination do not create rights to Government services and materials in languages other than English .
   If passed, my bill will also repeal all bilingual, or foreign-language, ballot mandates. There is a reason bilingual ballots make so many of my constituents upset. Gathering together at the polling place is one of the few remaining civic rituals we perform as Americans.
   I can remember going along with my mother on election day; the American flag behind the table where voters signed in and were verified as eligible; the sound of the ``thunk'' of the levers on the voting machine. I remember thinking even then that voting was a privilege to be approached seriously.
   In all too many places these days, the local polling place resembles nothing more than a branch of the Mexican consulate or an outpost of the United Nations--signs in two, three, or even more languages; people yelling at weary poll workers because a Cantonese speaker was summoned to translate for a speaker of Mandarin Chinese.
   My constituents ask me all the time how people are supposed to cast an informed vote if they cannot follow the debates, which are in English , and read the campaign literature, also in English . Bilingual ballots strike many of my constituents as an invitation to all kinds of voting fraud.
   Of course, when the Government attempts to please everyone by translating important documents into multiple languages, mistakes are inevitable.
   To mention just one example out of many, in 1993, the Chinese ballot in New York City had the Chinese characters for the word ``no'' as a translation of the English word ``yes.'' One can only imagine the confusion that ensued.
   Official English is popular, even among Hispanics. As I said before during the debate on my amendment, if you look at some of the recent polling data, such as the Zogby poll in 2006, it found 84 percent of Americans, including 77 percent of Hispanics, believed that English should be the national language of government operations. A poll of 91 percent of foreign-born Latino immigrants agreed that learning English is essential to succeed in the United States, according to a 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
   I wish to conclude by saying that I think it would be a tremendous demonstration of good faith by the White House to support my legislation. America has plenty of language problems already.
   If the Senate version of the President's immigration proposals should become law, every guest worker and ever recipient of amnesty would arrive on our shores as a little bundle of linguistic entitlements. Local government offices and public schools will be simply overwhelmed by the costly language mandates each of these individuals and their families will trigger.
   A nation certain of its language and culture can continue to be a welcoming nation to legal immigrants. A nation with uncontrolled borders and no convictions about what it expects immigrants to do once they arrive will soon become a nation in name only.
   Mr. President, my legislation is good for America and good for everyone in America. I urge its speedy passage by my colleagues.