NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 7, 2006

English is the official language of 51 nations and 27 states in the United States. Last March, a Zogby International poll of likely voters found that 84 percent support making English the official language of government operations. Among Democrats, 82 percent supported that idea, and among Hispanics, 71 percent. This is nothing new: Over the years, many polls reflect similar numbers, says Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Speaking English well enough for everyday life is a guaranteed way for new immigrants to increase their earning potential, lift academic achievement and enhance their career options, says Inhofe.

  • Inhofe's amendment, passed by the Senate last month, clarifies that, unless specified by other laws, there are no entitlements to federal services and documents in foreign languages.
  • This nation decided long ago that you must know English to become a citizen. Thus, there is no reason to offer government's citizen services in foreign languages.

Federal courts have held that individuals are not entitled to have government business conducted in a foreign language, says Inhofe:

  • In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Martha Sandoval, who had lived in America for 10 years without learning English, could not sue Alabama because it didn't offer foreign-language driver's license tests.
  • Similarly, federal courts have held that there's no right to foreign-language government forms, deportation notices or civil service exams.

Source: James Inhofe, "Our language unites us: Making English the official language would help immigrants, save money," USA Today, June 7, 2006.


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