NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 19, 2008

English as an official language has gained momentum as proponents keep going to the ballot box with measures that discourage bilingual ballots, notices and documents.  Thirty states now have laws specifying that official government communications be in English, says U.S. English, a group that promotes the laws. This year such bills are under consideration in 19 legislatures.

Typically the proposed laws require that documents, ballots and other communications be published in English.  Exempt are communications to protect public health and safety or efforts to promote tourism.

This year:

  • In May, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill making English the state's official language. It is now before the state Senate.
  • In April, the Oklahoma House passed a bill requiring the majority of state business to be conducted in English. It is before the Senate.
  • Missouri will decide this fall on an amendment to the constitution requiring English for "all official proceedings."

Advocates say they are not suggesting that English be the only language spoken but that it be the only language used in dealing with government.

Requiring English for official business encourages immigrants to learn English. That will help them to assimilate into U.S. society and prosper in its economy, says Mauro Mujica, a Chilean immigrant and chairman and CEO of U.S. English.

Source: William M. Welch, "English language legislation gathers steam across the USA," USA Today, June 19, 2008.

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