Making English Our National Language Is Not Racist

If by chance you were watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the United States Senate last Thursday afternoon, you heard something truly offensive.

I had just arrived in Miami for a speech to a group of industry and technology leaders when I heard that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid had called a proposal to establish English as our national language "racist."

Stop and think about that for a moment, because chances are, when Senator Reid said that, he called you a racist.

Using the ‘R-Word’

Ninety percent of us believe that someone should be able to read and write English in order to be an American citizen. Seventy-eight percent of all immigrant families want their children to learn English. And with his statement on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Reid called every one of us who think this way a racist.

It’s important to know that the measure the Senate was considering didn’t address what language we speak in our homes, in our businesses or in any aspect of our private lives. It simply and straightforwardly stated that the government "shall preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language."

In fact, from my point of view, the measure had one great shortcoming: It didn’t end the mandate for bilingual ballots that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. The federal government currently requires some counties to print ballots and other election materials in foreign languages — a mandate which is, to say the least, a little curious. If someone must learn English to be a citizen, and only citizens can vote, why is there a need for bilingual ballots?

Such is the level of dishonesty in today’s immigration debate.

Thirty-Four Senators Oppose English as Our National Language

But it gets worse.

Despite the fact that the measure simply stated the obvious — that English has been and should remain the language of our democracy — and despite the fact that it required that new Americans also understand the Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance and American history as part of citizenship, 34 Senators voted against it.

Thirty-four votes against preserving English as our national language. It’s hard to think of a time in American history when Washington elites have been more out of touch with the American people. While 90% of Americans believe in English as the glue that preserves our nation and a force that generates our prosperity, the intellectual elite have contempt for them. They also have contempt for learning the basic ideas and principles of America‘s founding and for learning about the individual Americans who helped shape the very institutions of our civilization.

Adding Insult to Injury

And to add insult to injury, the same day that 34 Senators voted against making English our national language, many of the same Senators voted to give Social Security benefits to people who have been working here illegally.

It really defies comprehension. This is the same group that won’t save Social Security for younger Americans — the same crowd that stood and applauded when the President acknowledged during his State of the Union Address that his plan to rescue Social Security and give younger Americans a better and more secure retirement had failed.

With this vote, the Senate made itself complicit in one of the great and tragic truths of our immigration system: Lawbreaking leads to more lawbreaking. People who have entered our country illegally have already broken the law once. And when they use fraudulent documents to obtain employment — or when employers illegally fail to require documentation — the law is broken again. The vote to give Social Security benefits for illegal work — just like the vote to give amnesty for illegal entry — is a vote to encourage more lawbreaking.

‘In Every Facet an American’

For 400 years, people who believe their rights come from God have been building a free and prosperous society in America. We have been open to people of many backgrounds and many languages, but we have insisted that they become American.

Theodore Roosevelt put it best: "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against such men because of creed or birthplace origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American."

We must return to this great tradition of being a welcoming nation, but being one nation, under God, and indivisible.