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English as Official Language, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

In the United States, it seems that every time there is a recession or other financial difficulties, people have focused on immigrants and their belief that people from other countries threaten to take jobs away from Americans. This is accompanied by an anti-immigration backlash, and a secondary focus on the fact that many immigrants have not learned to speak English. The result of this is the drive to make English the official language of the United States. This paper will discuss that issue, presenting arguments against making this significant change to our legal system or the Constitution.

Many Americans believe that English is already an official language of the United States. In fact, the Constitution makes no reference to the subject at all (Walenta, 2010.) Ironically, English is the official language of at least 50 countries in the world, but not in the United States Since the country’s beginnings, when John Adams proposed an official, government-sponsored academy of the English language, this idea was rejected because it was seen as “undemocratic as well is a threat to individual liberty” (McDade, 2008.) It appears that the Founding Fathers believed that speaking languages from where people originate are in the category of “rights”, and so were not in favor of adopting one official language or religion. The freedoms that the Founding Fathers envisioned included individual liberties, some of which were enumerated in the Constitution, and others which were not.

There are several sound arguments against making English the official language of the United States. One of them is that the nation celebrates diversity, respecting other cultures, which includes the languages and customs of those other racial and ethnic groups. To deny people the right to speak their own language is clearly a violation of the civil rights of those individuals. In addition, doing so would be creating and reinforcing divisions between Americans, drawing a line between “us” and “them”, which does not support the concept of a unified nation, but rather divides people into outsiders, the “others.” Many people, for example, who speak Spanish are suspected of being illegal immigrants, and the English-only proposals would only compound such negative stereotypes by conveying the attitude that speaking another language is an undesirable behavior.

Another reason that is in opposition to the English-only movement is that the people who are in favor of such legislation don’t really explain how they expect to help non-English speaking people learn the language.  If the United States becomes an English-only country, what happens to the people who don’t speak the language?  Will they be criminally tried?  Will they be deported back to the country from which they came? The English-only legislation does not clarify how it could possibly be enforced. Nor does it include methods to help non-English speaking people learn English: would it provide ESL classes to all those who need them?

The most compelling reason to oppose English-only legislation, however, is that it clearly violates the 14th Amendment, specifically the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. If people who don’t speak English are adjudicated, and their language is not recognized, they would be unable to defend themselves in a court of law. As a result, the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law would be denied to people who do not speak English. Since the Constitution is held up as the absolute cornerstone of our democracy, it is troubling to consider that legislation such as English-only laws could actually violate guaranteed rights of people within the jurisdiction of the United States.

References:

McDade, K. (2008, January 18). Should English Be the Official Language of the United States Of America? Retrieved December 23, 2012, from Yahoo Voices: http://voices.yahoo.com/should-english-official-language-united-825385.html?cat=9

Walenta, C. (2010). Constitutional Topic: Official Language. Retrieved December 23, 2012, from U. S. Constitution.net: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_lang.html

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