In the United States, 98.4% of the people living there are descendants of immigrants or immigrants themselves. Many of their ancestors have faced racism or other hardships simply due to their origin from those who settled there beforehand. It's a vicious circle dating back to the 1600s when the British and other Europeans began to flock to the ‘new land’. Not too long after, they enslaved Africans and brought them against their will. In the mid-1800s, the Asians started entering the country only to be barred 30 years later as part of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. Only in 1952 did the McCarran-Walter Act formally end the exclusion of Asian immigrants to the United States. In the mid-1990s, after World War II, the US faced labor shortages. The US and Mexico created the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexican agricultural workers to enter the United States temporarily to boost the economy. In the late 1950s, the US admitted over 3 million refugees from Hungary after a failed uprising against the Soviets. The list goes on and while there are more in-depth details to immigration and enslavement, it demonstrates that a majority of Americans arrived from all over the world.
Immigrants bring diversity and innovation to America. It is the reason Sergey Brin (Co-founder of Google), Levi Strauss (Fashion Icon), Jan Koum (Co-founder and CEO of Whatsapp), Madeleine Albright (First woman to be the US Secretary of State), Joseph Pulitzer (Pulitzer Prize founded by Joseph after his impressive career in journalism), and others had the opportunity to change the world. It is the reason companies can easily create diverse teams to expand globally. To simply declare English as the official language has fundamental flaws.
In regards to the Constitution: From Issue Council: “an official English language violates equal protection in court. If the government is not required to provide someone with appropriate language services, this may significantly undermine their ability to defend themselves, thus undermining equal protection in court. This would refer to the Fourteenth Amendment the Constitution promises.” The ACLU argues that adopting English-only would deprive people of this right - they might not be able to defend themselves effectively in a courtroom.
It also affects the First Amendment, as communication with the government and the right to equality is threatened. From ACLU:“‘English Only’ laws, which declare English to be the country's official language and bar government employees from providing non-English language assistance and services, are inconsistent with both the First Amendment right to communicate with or petition the government, and the right to equality. They are also unnecessary and sometimes even dangerous to both individuals and the public. Currently enforced in eighteen states, some ‘English Only’ laws are written so broadly that they forbid non-English government services such as assistance to recipients of benefits, applications for drivers' licenses, and bilingual education.
Current ‘English Only’ laws are based on the false premise that today's immigrants who come from Asian and Spanish-speaking countries will not learn English without government coercion. In fact, the vast majority of Asian and Latino immigrants are acquiring proficiency in English just as quickly, if not faster, than earlier generations of Italian, Russian and German immigrants. Moreover, only 4% of the U.S. population over the age of five does not speak English.
The problem is not that immigrants are unwilling to learn English, but that there are not enough available educational resources for them. Today, many thousands of immigrants throughout the country are on the waiting lists for adult English classes. English-only laws do nothing constructive to increase English proficiency, they simply discriminate against and punish those who have not yet learned English.”
In regards to Civil Rights: From Cornell Law School: "Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, ancestry, national origin or ethnicity. Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based "on the ground of race, color, or national origin," in "any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act provides the foundation for ensuring nondiscrimination in all federal programs and services, including those provided to language minorities."
In regards to diversity: At a young age, we learn the United States is a “melting pot” or “salad bowl” of different cultures. As a sign of respect to all the immigrants they descend from, the U.S. should not limit its citizens to one language. Their ancestors may have been forced to speak English but the fear of discrimination based on their origin in an outdated concept - both legally and socially.
While the majority of the population can and do speak English there are other languages that are spoken by millions that would not be represented. According to Babbel, the most spoken languages other than English is Spanish with 43,200,000 native speakers, Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin and other varieties) with 2,900,000 native speakers, Tagalog with 1,610,000 native speakers, and Vietnamese with 1,400,000 native speakers. A failure to represent at least 49 million people speaking another language as their mother tongue is legally detrimental. In perspective that is more than the size of the 2010 estimated population of the Census Bureau's Pacific Region (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii) at approximately 47.8 million. The 2019 US Census Bureau's estimate of the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) population minus Maryland totaled around 49 million. With 'English Only' laws these two densely populated regions theoretically would not be equally represented. That is mind-blowing!
Tell us your thoughts below!