Amendment to migrant-reform bill makes English 'national
Republic Washington Bureau
May. 19, 2006
WASHINGTON - English would be recognized as "the national language of the United
States" under an amendment the Senate attached to an immigration-reform bill
It was mostly a symbolic move that highlighted the cultural tensions of the
The amendment wouldn't affect existing laws, court decisions or executive orders
that require the government to provide services in other languages, nor would it
affect laws in 27 states making English the official language.
But the amendment, sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and an alternative
by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that declared English to be a "common and
unifying" language, sparked heated debate. Salazar's proposal also passed.
Most Republicans, including John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona, voted for the
Inhofe amendment. Kyl was a co-sponsor. Most Democrats voted for Salazar's
proposal. McCain and some other key GOP supporters of the immigration-reform
bill voted for both.
Throughout the debate, supporters and opponents of reform have stressed their
desire to encourage immigrants to assimilate and learn English.
Protesters who waved Mexican flags at rallies for reform earlier this spring
angered many lawmakers. President Bush weighed in last month to say the national
anthem should be sung in English, after Latino pop stars recorded a version in
"It is the common language of a number of countries, but English is a part of
our blood, it is part of our spirit, it's part of who we are," said Sen.
Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also a co-sponsor of Inhofe's measure.
Advocates for Latinos called the Inhofe amendment insulting.
"It's more of a mean-spirited signal to the Hispanic community, in particular,
that their culture is not accepted in the United States," said Brent Wilkes,
executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "If it's
just, 'Our language is English,' and that's it, and there's no practical effect
at all, then why do it, other than just to kind of thumb your nose at Latinos
and other communities that have different languages?"
The Senate also blocked, 58-35, an amendment Thursday co-sponsored by Kyl and
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that reform supporters said would have effectively
killed the immigration-reform bill. The proposal would have made future
temporary workers ineligible to get permanent legal status.