[lg policy] Pennsylvania: Inquirer Editorial: English-only legislation isn't worth pursuing

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 22 14:45:07 UTC 2011

Proposed English-only law isn't needed

Posted on Wed, Sep. 21, 2011

Inquirer Editorial: English-only legislation isn't worth pursuing

With all the pressing issues facing Pennsylvania lawmakers, a
Republican-led state House committee managed to fritter away several
hours on a proposal to make English the state's official language. The
legislators assembled last week by panel chairman Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
(R., Butler) even spent a moment of silence in memory of the late Joey
Vento, who directed that the hungry and huddled masses at his South
Philly cheesesteak stand order only in English.

Then, things really went downhill. A legislator from York County -
apparently conversant in the views of 300 million people who trace
their heritage to every corner of the globe - offered a fractured
civics lesson that boiled down to: America, love it or leave it if you
don't like speaking the mother tongue.

"This is our country, our culture, our lifestyle, and our language,"
said Rep. Scott Perry (R., York). "If our language doesn't suit you,
no one forced you to come here, and no one is forcing you to stay."

Perry, along with state Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R., Lebanon), offered
legislation that would force the state to conduct most business in
English. They pointed to purported savings from not having to print as
many documents in other languages. But that's probably where the
dollar savings end.

If the measures led to reduced funding for programs that teach English
to newcomers to these shores, those immigrants might well be worse off
when seeking jobs. Maybe they'd even wind up on welfare, costing the
state a bundle.

What about people with minimal English skills seeking medical
treatment? If they can't access care due to language barriers, they
might wind up with more serious illnesses that are even more costly to

Beyond any practical considerations is the negative message that the
English-only movement sends to immigrants. That's why the American
Civil Liberties Union blasts English-only laws as "contrary to the
spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in our Constitution."

These measures are remedies in search of a problem, since the vast
majority of U.S. residents are fluent in English, and most immigrants
are eager to learn.

Like requiring photo identification to vote, or empowering police to
pull over anyone "suspected of being unlawfully" in the country, these
English-only measures tap into anti-immigrant feelings that actually
dishonor this nation of immigrants.


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