H.R. 997 the ‘English Language Unity Act of 2011’ is much too expansive. I even disagree about it being needed. Government should be sensible, not agressive.
Another group of elected officials are attempting to prove their merit by enacting more regulations.
H.R. 997 declares that “The official language of the United States is English.” I am OK with English being the official language. For good reasons one language by which the government does business is wise. IF that needs to be established in law so be it. However, It could be just as senible that since a majority of the people speak English and always have, that would be the language of the government. Additionally English will be the dominant language spoken worldwide.
Every law brings with it unknown impacts. We can knowingly mitigate those unknown consequences by choosing to avoid more legislation.
My opposition to this particular bill are three-fold. It says
The Secretary of Homeland Security shall, within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, issue for public notice and comment a proposed rule for uniform testing English language ability of candidates for naturalization, based upon the principles that–
(1) all citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States which are made in pursuance thereof; and
(2) any exceptions to this standard should be limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as asylum.
The showering of indiscriminate authority on an unelected official too often leads to abuse of power. We see that going on now.
The second problem is the means testing. It is unnecessary. With English as the used language of all government functions, including the courts, it is natural that all citizens will adapt.
Additionally, as soon as the test questions are public the incentive for the learner to simple remember a set of answers, limiting any true understanding.
My third complaint is that this proposed law comes with its own exhaustive list of exceptions. Note the text:
This section shall apply to all laws, public proceedings, regulations, publications, orders, actions, programs, and policies, but does not apply to–
‘(1) teaching of languages;
‘(2) requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
‘(3) actions, documents, or policies necessary for national security, international relations, trade, tourism, or commerce;
‘(4) actions or documents that protect the public health and safety;
‘(5) actions or documents that facilitate the activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any census of population;
‘(6) actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants; or
‘(7) using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.”
With such a broad scope of exception it can be guaranteed in our litigious society that extreme amounts of public money will be used defending this bill in court. Legislation leads to litigation. That is not disputable.
This third objection has another element which might be considered a separate fourth complaint. That is in the rules of construction. Specifically ‘Nothing in this chapter shall be construed–…‘(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or Native American languages.” Language preserves the heritage of these great people. From their heritage we can learn much without succumbing to changing our form of governments.
When we acquired the Louisiana Territory (Louisiana purchase) in some areas there was a distinct French influence and language. When we acquired California there was a decidedly Hispanic culture and language. Yet, this bill provides exemptions for some groups and not for others these groups that have equal claim.
So, there is my objection to H.R. 997.
Once again elected officials deem it essential to try to regulate common sense, which in the end leads to insensible results. We would be far better served by a Congress that focused on the preservation of individual liberties and states rights than focusing on restrictions.