Inhofe Statement upon the Introduction an Amendment Designating

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

Mr. President, in his speech, the President endorsed the idea that people immigrating to this country should assimilate and learn English .

   I will quote from his speech:

 

   ..... We must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into society, and embrace our common identity as Americans. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation for our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America. English allows newcomers to go from picking crops to opening a grocery ..... from cleaning offices to running offices ..... from a life of low-paying jobs to a diploma, a career, and a home of their own. When immigrants assimilate and advance in our society, they realize their dreams ..... they renew our spirit ..... and they add to the unity of Americans.

 

   Last November, speaking to an audience in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, President Bush again stated his support for immigrants to learn English . He said:

 

   Every new citizen of the United States has an obligation to learn our custom and our values, including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God and tolerance for others, and the English language.

 

   So this has been very specific. Ronald Reagan addressed it many times, certainly, in the State of the Union Message. I recall being here in 1999, when President Bill Clinton at that time said:

 

   Our new immigrants ..... have a responsibility to enter the mainstream of America. That means learning English .

 

   It goes on and on and on. I think almost every Member has at one time or another talked in the Senate about the reasons it is necessary for the English language to be part of any kind of an immigration bill.

   Today, once again, I am offering my English amendment, No. 3996, along with my colleagues, Senators Sessions, Coburn, Burns, Bunning, and others. My amendment follows Congressman Peter King's bill, H.R. 4408, as well as Senator Shelby's bill, S. 323, from the 105th Congress, by making English the official language and requiring all official business of the United States to be conducted in English .

   It also allows exceptions. This is very important because arguments have been made against it. But there are exceptions where our law specifically says something should be done in another language, such things as protecting someone's legal rights to make sure they understand what their privileges are, what their responsibilities are when they are served.

   Also, recently, when we experienced Hurricane Katrina, where an evacuation order was issued, that order could be delivered by the Federal Government in necessary languages to get the message out.

   So we have taken care of these problems.

   I would suggest there are three main reasons to adopt this amendment. One is for unity and assimilation. To begin with, as the President has said numerous times, learning English is vital to achieving assimilation, assimilating yourself into society. So many people are looking at illegals who are coming over and getting jobs, but they do not stop and think about the fact that in order to become a citizen, you have to assimilate into society so you can enjoy the benefits. They do not come naturally. You have to make it happen.

   President Theodore Roosevelt echoed this point at a luncheon for the National Americanization Committee on February 1, 1916. He said:

 

   Let us say to the immigrant not that we hope he will learn English , but that he has got to learn it. ..... He has got to consider the interest of the United States or he should not stay here.

 

   It goes all the way back for many years. Our leaders have reiterated this. Our country is made up of immigrants from all over the world, immigrants who have joined together under common ideas, common beliefs, and a common language to function as ``one nation under God.''

   As we allow great numbers of immigrants, legal and illegal, into the country, we are overwhelming the assimilation process and creating what some have called ``linguistic ghettos,'' segregating these immigrants into a massive underclass who are not able to obtain good-paying jobs and climb out of poverty and Government dependency.

   By not requiring immigrants to assimilate and learn English , we are also undermining our unity and importing dangerous, deadly philosophies that go against our American ideals.

   September 11 is an example of this, as Muslim extremists executed their jihadist philosophy against the United States and caused thousands of Americans to lose their lives.

   The second thing to be considered is the cost. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that it costs taxpayers between $1 billion and $2 billion to provide language assistance under President Clinton's Executive order that came out during his Presidency.

   There are also enormous costs associated with the mandate that local governments provide multilingual ballots. For example, Los Angeles County taxpayers spent over $1.1 million in 1996 to provide multilingual voting assistance in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Filipino, according to a GAO report.

   In 2002, Los Angeles's multilingual election costs more than doubled to $3.3 million, according to the Associated Press.

   The third reason is, this is something the American people want. All the American people want it. I have never seen anything polled more consistently than this issue has been polled. Three national associations are dedicated solely to this amendment: U.S. English , English First, and Pro-English .

   Senator Specter's Judiciary Committee invited this amendment in the Legislative Directors' meeting in the Republican Policy Committee by saying it ``welcomed amendments on English'' as a means to enhance ``assimilation'' of immigrants.

   This issue has raised millions of dollars in direct mail over the years. These donors must include populists, given the huge levels of support. No other amendment has been more thoroughly vetted. This concept has been around for decades, indeed, for centuries. Historically, the legislation has been bipartisan.

   In 1997, several of us joined Senator Shelby in his official English bill. It was a bipartisan bill with 21 cosponsors, including Democrats Hollings and Byrd and many others. And over 150 current Members of the House of Representatives have cosponsored official English legislation.

   Most of the States--27--have made English their official language. This is kind of interesting. The vast majority of the States, on their own, on a State basis, have made English the official language.

   There are 51 nations around the world that have made English their official language, but we have not. Now, can you explain to me why Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have made English their official language, yet the United States has not?

   The pollsters, consistently over the last 20 years, have all shown positive results at levels in the 80s, the 80-percentile range. In 1988, G. Lawrence Research showed 87 percent favored English as the official language, with only 8 percent opposed and 5 percent not sure.

   A 1996 national survey by Luntz Research asked: Do you think English should be made the official language of the United States? Eighty-six percent of Americans supported making English the official language. Only 12 percent opposed it.

   Eighty-one percent of first-generation immigrants, 83 percent of second-generation immigrants, and 87 percent of third- and fourth-generation immigrants supported making English the official language.

   I think a lot of people have this misunderstanding that this is some kind of a protectionist issue. Yet the vast majority of Latinos, the vast majority of immigrants have supported this, also.

   In 2000, Public Opinion Strategies showed 84 percent favored English as the official language, with only 12 percent opposing.

   Ninety-two percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats, and 76 percent of Independents favor making English the official language. That is according to a 2004 Zogby International poll.

   Another Zogby International poll question on official English --this poll is a month old, conducted between March 14 and 16 of 2006--said: Five out of six likely voters support official English . When informed the United States has no official language, five out of six likely voters--84 percent--agree the country should make English the official language. The majority of Hispanic voters support official English . An overwhelming majority of likely Hispanic voters--71 percent--agree the country should make English the official language.

   A bipartisan majority support official English . Official English is not an ``extreme'' position. Eighty-four percent of self-identified ``moderate'' voters support English as the official language.

   Hispanics also agree learning English is important. So it is not just that it is the right thing to do, it is what they can do for themselves. The National Council of LaRaza, which opposes official English , commissioned a 2004 Zogby poll showing that Latinos believe in the importance of learning English . Over 97 percent strongly agreed that ``the ability to speak English is important to succeed in this country.''

   In south Florida, Hispanics back English , according to a 2005 University of Miami School of Communications/Zogby International survey. ``How important is it for Hispanics who immigrate to the United States to adopt American culture?'' Seventy percent said it is very important. These are Hispanics who are responding.

   The December 2002 Pew Hispanic Center/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos asked:

 

   Do you think adult Latino immigrants need to learn English to succeed in the United States or can they succeed even if they only speak Spanish?

 

   About 9 in 10--89 percent--of Latinos indicate that they believe immigrants need to learn to speak English to succeed in the United States.

   And this goes on and on and on. There should not be any question in anyone's mind that one of the most

popular notions out there is for us to adopt English as the official language. 

   Finally, according to ProEnglish, a group dedicated to making English the official language, one out of every five Americans speaks a language other than English at home.

   Referring to immigrants speaking English in our country, Congressman Steve King of Iowa said:

 

   I don't think the immigrants are the problem; I think it is the people at the border that are telling them that they don't have to learn English , should not have to and keep them in these cultural enclaves so that then allows them to control the immigrants and gives them political power.

 

   I believe we are doing a great disservice if we do not recognize this as one of the true, great issues of our time. There is no more appropriate time than during the consideration of this immigration bill to bring this out and finally do something we have talked about doing now for over 100 years and getting it done and getting it done on this bill.

   Mr. President, let me repeat how much I appreciate the minority leader allowing me to get into the queue. We look forward to having this debated and voted on tomorrow.