There seems to be a lot talk these days about English Only Laws. English Only laws vary. Some states simply declare English as the official language of the state. Other state and local edicts limit or prohibit government’s use of non-English language assistance and services. Some restrict bilingual education programs, prohibit multilingual ballots, or forbid non-English government services such services as courtroom translation or multilingual emergency police lines.
So far sixteen States have adopted English only laws. Some versions of the English Language Amendment would void almost all state and federal laws that require the government to provide services in languages other than English. The services affected would include health, education and social welfare services, job training, translation assistance to crime victims and witnesses in court and administrative proceedings; voting assistance and ballots, drivers’ licensing exams, and AIDS prevention education.
It is estimated that 96 percent of Americans are fluent in English, It is also estimated that 10 million resident are not. While 96 percent seems to be a huge percentage, ten million individuals should not be overlooked. Would the proposed laws violate the rights of these American citizens? Will English only laws slow or speed the progress of integrating immigrants into the fabrics of society? These laws may have an effect on the last generation of immigrants but I believe they will help the next generation.
Immigrants want to come to the United States of America for many reasons. Some of those reasons include religious freedoms, abundant opportunity, and a democratic society. It is the vast majority of cultures and different races of people that make our nation great. However, this nation needs to find a glue to unite the people and stir patriotism in our society.
With the latest rounds of terrorist attacks and the War on Terrorism being fought in the Middle East this nation should be mindful of groups that could cause harm to society. If you have different groups of people that exist in the United States, and those groups all have their own language and cannot communicate with each other, this nation could tear it’s self apart from the inside out. There has to something to unite the different races so that they share something in common. The English language could be part of that glue.
By imposing English Only legislature the government will encourage individuals and families to learn the English language. This change may have some negative effects in the short run, but in the long run, the changes will be beneficial to society. Learning English will not limit the types of jobs that immigrants are qualified for. It will enable them to be more informed about the political policies that this nation makes. It will enable them to seek more abundant help if in danger. It will enable all different types of people to communicate and have a common language.
It is impossible for the government to accommodate all of the different languages and groups that exist. If the government is going to sponsor a program to make people aware of the dangers of HIV, should it be required to make flyers and posters in every language imaginable as to not exclude anyone? The answer is no, if immigrants come to this nation they themselves are responsible for learning the cultures and the language of the American people. Society as well as individuals will benefit from this policy.
The English Only policy proposed does not violate the rights of its citizens. It does not state that immigrants cannot communicate in their native tongue. If immigrants want to speak their native language among each other or anyone else that is perfectly acceptable. The government is merely simplifying programs, saving time and money, and encouraging a common bond among American citizens. This is not a violation of individual rights.
However, I do believe that the government should take a more active role in educating immigrants as they come into the country. If immigrants are required to learn English as part of the naturalization process they would be more equipped to handle the challenges that lie ahead. As Americans it is our responsibility to make sure that immigrants are not a drain on society. The door should always be open to individuals looking for a better life but we need to make sure that those individuals are equipped to lead productive lives. English Only laws might help that process along.
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