[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Texas: (spoiler alert) Mauro E. Mujica, guest columnist: Common language unites citizens, bolsters opportunities

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Nov 22 16:13:23 UTC 2014

 Mauro E. Mujica, guest columnist: Common language unites citizens,
bolsters opportunities

Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:01 am

MAURO E. MUJICA Guest columnist

Texas is a border state recognized for its diversity. In the melting pot
that is America, differences are — and should be — celebrated. But as a
nation that welcomes immigrants from all over the world, without a common
thread to unite us in our diversity, we become divided. Without an official
language policy, Texas is unfortunately a prime example of these divisions.

Census data show 171 languages are spoken in Texas. Multilingualism should,
of course, be encouraged. I myself am a native Spanish speaker and I am now
fluent in four languages and continue to study even more. But regardless of
how many languages one can speak, in the United States, English should be
considered crucial.

Due to the lack of an official language policy, however, 25 of the state’s
254 counties have limited English proficiency rates of 20 percent or
higher. In fact, more than 3.3 million Texas residents, or close to 15
percent of the state’s population, are considered limited English
proficient, meaning they would struggle to carry on more than a basic
conversation in English.

Without a firm grasp of English, these limited English-proficient
individuals are likely to be trapped in low-paying jobs, less likely to
have health insurance and likely to face daily life encountering language
barriers. How do I know?

I myself am an immigrant to the United States. One of the things that makes
me feel most American is being able to navigate daily life without needing
special linguistic accommodations. I know, too, that when no translation
service is provided, immigrants see an incentive to learn English for their

It’s time for the Texas Legislature to take note — and take action. By
declaring English the official language of the Lone Star State, state
government agencies would no longer be required to provide documents and
services in languages other than English, saving valuable taxpayer money,
which could then instead be used to create more opportunities for
immigrants to learn English.

But more importantly, the state government would send a message that in
Texas — as in the United States — English is essential, not optional, for

How does English proficiency lead to success? A September 2014 study from
the Brookings Institution found that limited English-speaking residents
earn 25 percent to 40 percent less than their English-speaking
counterparts. Without an official language policy, such divisions will
continue to exist.

Of course, declaring English the official language would still permit use
of foreign languages in public health and safety emergencies, judicial
situations and other common sense exceptions. But the policy sends an
overarching message: To achieve your highest potential here in Texas,
English proficiency is key. Such a policy allows the government to have a
hand in ensuring that immigrants are placed on a level playing field with
native English speakers, allowing them to take control of their destiny,
improving their chances for success and putting them on the path to
achieving the American Dream.

*Mauro E. Mujica is the chairman of U.S. English Inc., the nation’s oldest
and largest non-partisan citizens action group dedicated to preserving the
unifying role of the English language in the United States.*

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