A report from Washington correspondent Conrad Wilson:
WASHINGTON – The English-only debate it back … well, kinda.
Minnesota Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline want to see English as the official language of the United States. And their efforts have not been made in vain.
Recently, Bachmann and Kline were recognized by the advocacy group U.S. English for their â€œefforts to promote English as the unifying language of the United States.â€
The Minnesota Republicans were among the 130 House members from 37 states (in both parties) to receive an â€œA in Englishâ€ award, based on their votes and work in Congress to help make English the official language of the U.S. .
While both Kline and Bachmann scored the â€œhighest,â€ honorable mentions included Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad, who received a B+ and Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson, who received a B.
Democrat Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar and Tim Walz all â€œfailedâ€ — a.k.a., voted against all the proposals.
The grades were based on a series of votes including a bill (H.R. 997 – the English Language Unity Act) as well as a series of measures to reduce multilingual ballots, reduce multilingualism at the IRS, and English in the work-place policies.
“If we were all to come here today and speak only our native tongues, we would be unable to share our thoughts and ideas, let alone make the laws for 300 million Americans,â€ said Mauro Mujica, the chairman of U.S. English, in a statement. â€œThrough their support of official English legislation, these members are ensuring that government will be on the side of promoting English, not separating groups along language lines.”
But not everyone is giving out passing grades.
Katherine Fennelly, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs, called this type of legislation â€œunnecessary and divisive.â€
â€œThe vast majority of individuals in the U.S. speak English, and a number of studies have shown that by the second generation children of immigrants acquire English, but lose their ability to speak their parents’ languages,â€ Fennelly wrote in an email. â€œIn this age of globalization, bilingualism should be viewed as an asset, not a deficit.â€
Fennelly added: â€œOutlawing the use of other languages will do nothing to promote English learning; instead, it will put many individuals who have not been here long enough to have become fluent at risk. There are also potential threats to public safety of citizens and non-citizens alike if non-English speakers are unable to secure needed emergency services from medical, police and safety personnel.â€
Bachmann disagreed, saying a common language provides unity.
“Sharing a common language helps to bring people together and to give new immigrants a faster ladder to success,” Bachmann said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be receiving this award and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to promote the English language in America.”