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Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Aug 31 12:18:28 UTC 2005


By Diane M. Grassi
Aug 31, 2005

The one absolute certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or
preventing all possibility of it continuing to be a nation at all, would
be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities. We have
but one flag. We must also learn one language and that language is
English.  Theodore Roosevelt (1915)

In his final months in office, President Bill Clinton issued Executive
Order 13166 on August 11, 2000. Having wrangled with the United States
Congress without success on the issue, E.O. 13166 directs all federal
agencies to implement a system to improve access to federal programs and
federally subsidized agencies by persons who are limited in their English
proficiency (LEP). In conjunction with E.O. 13166, the Department of
Justice issued a document titled, LEP Guidance, which set its compliance
standards. Thus, agencies must follow that programs and activities they
provide in English are also accessible to LEP persons and thus do not
discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, or language.

On April 24, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings
of Sandoval v. Hagan brought in Federal court in June 1998. The plaintiff
claimed that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act should also apply to persons
not of national origin on the basis of language. The Supreme Courts
ruling, however, eliminated any legal basis for E.O. 13166. In 2005 two
bills, introduced in the U.S.  House of Representatives and in the U.S.
Senate, would officially nullify E.O. 13166. The English Language Unity
Act of 2005 or H.R. 997 is pending in the House and S.B. 557 is pending in
the Senate.

The administration of President Bush attempts to downplay the Supreme
Court's ruling in the Sandoval case and states, "It is the position of the
Department of Justice that Executive Order 13166 remains in force. Given
the fact that the Sandoval decision threw out virtually the only judicial
precedent that existed for issuing E.O. 13166, the administration
established a Mend It Dont End It mandate and urges all government
agencies to balance common sense factors with availability of resources in
complying with the order.

Years later the ramifications or implications of such policy has presented
unending obstacles which range from issues of public safety to
infringement upon the rights of Americans. To wit, Alabama continues to
issue its drivers license exams in 13 languages including Arabic, Chinese,
Farsi, Russian, Vietnamese, Thai and Spanish. However in 1990 the people
of Alabama voted by a wide margin to amend their state constitution and
make English the official language. In compliance with the law, Alabama
stopped giving drivers license exams in other languages. It was then
challenged in federal court, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently ruled
that Alabama was within its constitutional rights to have such a policy.
However, Alabama still allows drivers license applicants to take their
exams in multiple languages.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation, a constitutional public interest law
firm, filed suit in May 2005, asking the court to enforce Amendment 509 of
the Alabama Constitution, which gives standing to its citizens to enforce
its English language drivers license requirement. Also of importance, is
that providing drivers license tests in multiple languages is a threat to
the public safety of the community, with traffic signs posted in English
in addition to the inability of said driver to communicate with law
enforcement in the event of an accident or emergency.

In addition to the trials and tribulations in Alabama, a southern
California tree nursery recently filed a lawsuit against the state of
California, alleging that it discriminates against foreign-language
speaking workers by not offering safety tests in their native languages.
GroWest is claiming its only crane operator, who has been employed there
for 24 years, failed the state mandated Certification for Crane Operators
exam because it was in English. Graham Brent, executive director of the
state commission representing the National Commission for the
Certification of Crane Operators that produces the test claims, The issue
doesnt have anything to do with discriminating against people who do not
speak English, but everything to do with safety. Crane operators must be
able to read the English language safety manuals, maintain required
records and report unsafe conditions in English. California state
attorney, David Pies, said, Certain growers want to be able to continue to
use workers who do not speak, read, or write English proficiently to
operate cranes, regardless of the risk to them or their co-workers.

The Denver Public Library system is actively promoting a plan that will
make seven of its branches Spanish focused. This program banishes English
language books to the storeroom. The program, Languages and Learning,
plans to dramatically increase its Spanish language offerings as well as
Spanish-speaking staff, and designates these locations as
Spanish-dominant. But many residents as well as taxpayers in Denver have
not taken this issue lightly. They rather view it as an act of favoritism,
discriminating against other residents who combined speak a total of 68

 According to Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of U.S. English, Inc., a
non-partisan citizens action group, says, A major U.S. city is creating a
public institution that intentionally excludes native-born Americans. This
action goes against the model of assimilation that has successfully served
the U.S. for centuries. An official Spanish library will further the
notion that Spanish speaking immigrants can live in relative comfort
without needing to learn our common language. We cannot send an
English-optional message to any immigrant group.

Had the Dallas County School Board listened to Mr. Mujica, perhaps it
would not have pursued and finalized its plan and requirement to have over
half of its schools principals learn Spanish where over 50% of its school
population has LEP, which covers 42 of its 100 schools. It is the nations
first school district which threatens principals with their jobs should
they not learn Spanish within the prescribed period of three years.

Dallas School Board Trustee, Joe May, defended the new policy, approved
August 25, 2005, and has said that not only over 50% of Dallas schools
have students with LEP but the effort was made also for principals to be
able to communicate with parents with LEP regarding their childrens
performance. Dallas is also 9th in the nation with people who speak
Vietnamese as a first language and 14th in the nation for Korean-speaking
people. Six percent of the school districts population speaks a language
other than English at home and the schools policy has not allotted
resources to promote English in those homes where Spanish is predominant.

If we go back to Theodore Roosevelts premise nearly 100 hundred years ago,
we can either consider him a prophet of his time or perhaps we come to the
realization that he had a great grasp of history as well as an eye on the
future. In order for the United States to maintain its sovereignty and
remain a nation undivided as well as prosperous, we must strive to be
joined by a common thread, that being the English language. Without that
common thread we are not a melting pot but rather a fractured society of
various cultures with different sets of ideals. This can only lead to the
undermining of America and we as Americans have the obligation to preserve

Copyright by Diane Grassi

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