Statement Upon Introduction of the English Language Unity Act of 2009

As Prepared for Delivery

MR. INHOFE.  Mr. President, today I would like to introduce two pieces of legislation that I believe are of great importance to the unity of the American people—the National Language Act and the English Language Unity Act.

 

The National Language Act recognizes the practical reality of the role of English as our national language and 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. This is especially important considering the Office of Management and Budget has estimated that the annual cost of providing multilingual assistance required by Clinton Executive Order 13166 is $1-2 billion annually.    

 

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.  When members of our society cannot speak a common language, individuals 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.

 

The Language Unity Act of 2009, the second piece of legislation that I am introducing today, incorporates all the ideas of the National Language Act, and requires the establishment of a uniform language requirement for naturalization and sets the framework for uniform testing of English language ability for candidates for naturalization.

 

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.  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. 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.

 My colleagues who have followed this debate will remember that the National Language Act of 2009 is identical to S. 2715, legislation I introduced in the 110th Congress.  Most importantly, this language is identical to the English amendments I authored which 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 legislation that empowers this nation’s immigrants to learn English,  

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.  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.

 

I ask unanimous consent that my remarks appear in the Record before the text of both bills.