On Monday, he announced that the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on Aug. 2 to debate the Official English Act, a bill the Republican congressman has pushed since he was sworn into office in 2003.
As the statement reads:
“The Official English Act, H.R. 997, declares English as our official language and requires representatives of the federal government to encourage individuals to learn English, establishes a uniform language requirement for naturalization, and requires functions of the United States to be conducted in English. Previously, King led the successful effort to enact legislation establishing English as Iowa’s official language as a member of Iowa’s Senate.
‘The Judiciary Committee hearing next week reflects the need to get a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on this popular issue- 87% of Americans say that English should be the official language of the United States,’ said King. ‘A common language is the most powerful source of unifying force for any nation. Over the course of history, common languages have created cohesive cultures and have helped prevent division. I’ve introduced the Official English Act every session I’ve been in Congress because I know that an official language will keep this nation bound together and I look forward to next week’s hearing. Now we need to get Official English passed into law.’
King referred to a 2010 Rasmussen poll that indeed showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans favor a law establishing English as the nation’s official language.
Still, such a law is un-American, both in the legal sense and in the traditional sense.
Historically, whenever the U.S. government was provided with the opportunity to impose English as an official language, it failed to do so. After Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 and determined to make its inhabitants citizens of the United States, the government could have required the largely French- and Spanish-speaking people to learn English as a requirement of American citizenship. Yet it imposed no such requirement.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, granted citizenship to the Mexicans living in what is now the American Southwest, and as the pro-English group U.S. English graciously cites, “The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo contains no mention of either Spanish or English.”
Following suit, inhabitants living in the subsequent territories of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico were all granted citizenship without any English requirement.
The legal point here: English is not what makes America America.
Besides the legal tradition, the Official English Act violates America’s cultural tradition. Unlike France or Germany or China, America is not a “Blood and Soil” nation. No one ethnic group can lay claim to her, or even supremacy.
That’s because America is an idea more than anything else. It is the idea that a government of the people can be set up to work for the people on the principles of liberty, equality and justice. And you don’t have to be black, white or brown, speak English, Spanish or Swahili, in order to be an American. You simply have to believe in the idea of America and be willing to advance and defend the idea.
The English language merely represents one form in which that radical idea is expressed.