At a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing today on legislation aiming to make English the official language of the United States, Rep. Mike Conyers (D-Mich.) testified in Spanish. As you can see from the video above, his was a broken, lumbering Spanish, but it’s the thought that counts. Indeed, in the proposed law—the “English Language Unity Act of 2011”—any Spanish at such hearings, even the lumbering kind, would be prohibited.
And that’s not all. Beyond requiring all official functions of the U.S. government to be performed in English, the law would make English the “official” language of the United States. It would implement a more stringent language test for immigrants seeking citizenship; they would have to “understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution.” Could you pass a test like that?Could the sponsor of the bill Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) pass such a test? I’ll leave it to Legislative Council at the Washington ACLU, Gabe Rothman:
The bill clearly violates both the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Spiritually, the Constitution is a document obsessed with the free flow of ideas (in whatever language) and the accountability and accessibility of federal, state and local governments to the people. These principles inform the First Amendment, of course, but they are also evident in the intellectual property clause, the Speech and Debate Clause and even the Privileges and Immunities Clauses, which reaffirm petition rights across all levels of government.