Laws unaffected by 'national language' bill
May. 22, 2006
WASHINGTON - Despite the brouhaha the Senate has caused with its immigration
bill, making English the "national language" of the United States will not
change current laws, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday.
Immigrants rights advocates decried the Senate's approval of the amendments to
the bill last week, saying they could lead to a cutback in services for people
who are not proficient in English.
But Gonzales, adding to his comments last week that the legislation was not
necessary, said the Senate measure is purely symbolic. "My reading of the
language that was passed by the Senate is that these amendments would not have
an effect on any existing rights currently provided under federal law,"
said Gonzales, the nation's top law enforcement officer.
The English-language proposal has prompted fierce debate in recent years.
While the Senate amendments declare English as the national language, they also
call English the nation's "common and unifying language," as opposed to being
the "official" or "only" language.
Last week, the Bush administration took both sides in the dispute. White House
press secretary Tony Snow signaled that President Bush would support the
amendments, while Gonzales said they weren't necessary.
On Sunday, Gonzales said the confusion was an issue of "semantics."
"The president has never been supportive of English only or English as the
official language, but certainly we support the fact that English is the
national language of the United States of America."
"Of course, we're in the legislative process now," he added. "Ultimately we have
to see what passes in the Senate."
A Senate vote on the immigration bill, which includes provisions that pave the
way for eventual legal status for millions of illegal immigrants, is expected as
early as this week. That sets up a potential clash with House members, who
passed a bill that focuses on border security and enforcement of immigration
On Sunday, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, said it won't be a "deal breaker" if the Senate passes its current
bill. But he cautioned that the Senate bill falls short in stemming illegal