The English Only movement is the organized effort to make English as the official language of the United States, led principally by a powerful right wing organization called U. S. English, whose founder is connected to anti-immigrant and population controlled organizations.
The premise of the movement is that the primacy of English language is endangered as more of more immigrants are moving into the United States who do not speak English and are coddled by bilingual services which have encouraged them not to learn English. The growing move to multilingualism, English Only advocates warned, will lead to disunity and separatism in the United States. The reality is that U.S. English and other English Only organizations are more concerned with the non-European and non-white characteristics of the recent immigrant population. Their xenophobia is shown by the anti-writings of its founders and the fact they are often associated with to anti-immigration organizations.
The goal of the English Only Movement is to make English as the official language of the federal government and the states, banning most interpreter services and limiting bilingual education. U.S. English has succeeded to lobby for the passage of English Only initiatives or legislation in 18 states since its founding in 1983 (There are presently 23 English Only states).
The English Only movement is the organized effort to make English the official language of the United States. It's led principally by a well-funded multi-million dollar right wing organization called U.S. English, which boasts a membership of over 570,000. U. S. English has successfully lobbied for the passage of English Only laws in 18 states (out of 22 total English Only states) since its founding in 1983.
Although U.S. English's propaganda often suggests otherwise, the racism and anti-immigrant philosophies are readily evident when we examine some of U. S. English's roots. Dr. John Tanton, principal founder and architect of U.S. English, is also the founder and former chairman of the anti-immigration organization, FAIR ( Federaton for American Immigration Reform). FAIR is the leading national agency promoting the current wave of legislation and policy restricting immigration and denying benefits for immigrants. FAIR and U.S. English are on a list of anti-immigration and population-control organizations supported by Dr. Tanton's personal non-profit umbrella, U.S. Inc. Other organizations on that list include: the Center for Immigration Studies, Californians for Population Stabilization, and Americans for Border Control.
Dr. Tanton's racist views on immigrants, particularly regarding Latinos, were reflected in a 1986 memo that was leaked out - warning about the specter of an Hispanic take-over of the United States: " ... in a society where the majority rules... Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile... As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?" As the result of the negative publicity related to the memo, Dr. Tanton was forced to resign as Chairman of U. S. English. However, U.S. English's propaganda machine has successfully deflected the Tanton controversy by reinventing some of its history. The late Senator S. I. Hayakawa of California, the former honorary chairman, is now described as the lone founder of U.S. English in all its literature.
Another questionable source of U.S. English's earlier funding was the Pioneer Fund, which supports eugenics research for racial betterment. Pioneer Fund was created in 1937 to support what it called "applied genetics in present day Germany", referring to Hitler's program of forced sterilization. In the 1970's, the Pioneer Fund also financed the research of William Shackle and Arthur Jenson on Blacks and lower IQ's.
The third principal funding source for U.S. English was Mellon heiress Cordelia Scaife May, who poured at least $5.8 to U.S. English, FAIR and other affiliated organization over the 1980's through her Laurel Foundation. May's Laurel Foundation sponsored the publication of The Camp of the Saints, a futuristic novel about the destruction of European civilization by third world immigrants.
Is the primacy of the English endangered?
Are recent immigrants resistant to learning English?
Would official English laws promote national unity?
Aren't "English Only" laws simply harmless symbolic acts?
1) Is the primacy of the English endangered?
No, the primacy of English is not endangered. It's already the de facto language of the United States. English is the de facto language of the United States. All public business, and most private business, is conducted in English. Foreign businesses who do business successfully in the United States require that their salespeople learn English. What we should support instead is the mastery of a second language or multiple languages. For American business to be competitive in our global market place, knowledge of other languages and cultures is crucial.
2) Are recent immigrants resistant to learning English?
No, newcomers recognize the primacy of English in our society and want to learn English. Over 95% of the people in the United States already speak English and over 85% are native speakers. Immigrants are experiencing a faster shift to English today than there was in prior generations. According to a 1985 Rand Corporation study, 95% of first generation Hispanic immigrants learn English; of their children, 100% speak English, and 50% speak only English. English Only legislation will not provide one penny towards the learning of English and will actually jeopardize the funding of bilingual education programs which help immigrants to learn English. There are thousands of people on waiting lists for English as Second Language classes around the country who want to learn English but cannot because classes are overfilled.
3) Would official English laws promote national unity?
No. Switzerland has three "official" languages and is a model of national unity, while Spain suffered three year bloody civil war when it had one "official" language. Social unity can only exist based on respect for people of different languages and cultures and not the repression of them. Language diversity does not cause social disunity. Similarly, monolingualism does not guarantee social unity.
4) Aren't "English Only" laws simply harmless symbolic acts?
"English Only" laws are not as innocuous as designating a state's official bird, song, or muffin. It is an attempt to limit access to governmental services for newly-arrived residents who may need language assistance in such crucial services as emergency medical help, child health immunization and public health and safety information, elderly and refugee services, employment and training information, etc.