Arizona Republic
October 22, 2006


Author: Alfredo Gutierrez, Special for The Republic Estimated printed pages: 4

The history of the English-only, now renamed "Official English," movement in America is intertwined with the politics of immigration and cultural chauvinism.

Perhaps America's earliest English-only campaign took place in colonial Pennsylvania. Its best-known advocate was none other than Benjamin Franklin.
Colonial Pennsylvania was about one-third German at the time of Franklin's pamphleteering, and it was growing by an alarming 7,000 immigrants annually.

Franklin foresaw danger in cultural diversity. "Great disorder and inconveniences may arise among us," he wrote. And in a scandalous diatribe reminiscent of today's English-only movement, he went on to ask, "Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to establish their Language and Manners to the exclusion of ours? ... They will never adopt our language and customs any more than they can acquire our complexion."

By 1764, the so-called Palatine Boors were sufficiently disgusted and democratically bounced Franklin out of the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly.
Shortly thereafter, Franklin became an advocate of bilingual education, discovered that, mercifully, the "Palatine Boors" believed in redemption.
And the rest is history.

Today's English-only movement, as it has been throughout American history, is an element of the debate on immigration. There is mainstream concern that the magnitude of our presence presents a cultural and economic threat to America; a fear that we will never fully assimilate, our educability is in question, our adherence to democracy is thin and we resist, indeed refuse, to learn English.

Language is the symbol of America's national identity, the argument goes, and the glue that binds us together. And Hispanics refuse to learn it. The more extreme English-only advocates echo Franklin's assertion of German immigrants that "they will never adopt our language and customs any more than they can acquire our complexion." The complexion trick will certainly be tougher for us than for our German predecessors; the language and customs part we got down pat.

There is little doubt about our work ethic; our capitalist impulse is demonstrated on every once-deteriorating street in metropolitan Phoenix.
Country Club, Main, McDowell, Van Buren have each regained new life with taquerias, dulcerias, laundries, health food stores, grocery stores, shoe repair shops, tailors, butchers, upholsterers and, yes, even candlestick-makers.

Our devotion to democracy is growing with each election, and we may soon have the clout of those colonial Germans of questionable complexion and bounce a few extremists out of office.

3rd generation skips Spanish

Every English as a Second Language program in the state is crowded with immigrants seeking to learn English. To our dismay, recent studies by Princeton and University of California scholars prove what we have long
suspected: that by the third generation, our grandchildren lose their facility to speak Spanish. English is the most viral international lingua franca that wins over the world, even our kids. So, what is the problem that English-only seeks to solve?

According to Proposition 103, the English language is threatened. Government must intervene. Immigration has always fueled the English-only movement.

You are being asked to support Proposition 103 to punish immigrants and compel them to learn English, ostensibly only the illegal ones, by denying them English in official settings. Illegal immigration is certainly a major issue that has to be resolved; Proposition 103 is the English-only movement's silly, unnecessary, and meanspirited response.

In 1995, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Arizona's earlier attempt at English-only unconstitutional with these words: "The diverse and multicultural character of our society is widely recognized as being among our greatest strengths. Recognizing this we have not, except for rare repressive statutes ... tried to compel immigrants to give up their native language; instead, we have encouraged them to learn English. The Arizona restriction on language provides no encouragement, however, only compulsion."

That was true then, it is true now of Proposition 103.

Facts about Proposition 103

The measure would require:

* Representatives of the state or a local government to preserve, protect and enhance the role of English as the official language.

* All official actions of the government to be conducted in English.

The proposition specifies situations in which state or local government could act in a language other than English, including:

* When required by federal law or when necessary to preserve the right to petition the government.

* In teaching languages other than English, or in using or preserving Native American languages.

* In actions to protect the public health and safety, including law enforcement and emergency services, or to protect the rights of crime victims and criminal defendants.

* Providing assistance to hearing impaired or illiterate persons.

* In informal or non-binding communications or translations among or between government officials and the public.

* For actions necessary for tourism, commerce or international trade.

Proposition 103 would prohibit discrimination against a person because the person uses English in any public or private communication.

Legislative Council and Arizona Secretary of State

Alfredo Gutierrez is a public affairs consultant. He formerly served as a Democratic state lawmaker and was a candidate for governor in 2002.

Also see "We can celebrate diversity AND find common groung through English"

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Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Viewpoints
Page: V1
Column: A STATE TONGUE - Prop. 103: Does Arizona need an official language?

Index Terms: ELECTION
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Record Number: pho154860873