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Pro: English should be official language of U.S.


March 7, 2010 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2010 at 9:08 p.m.

Claudia Penney, an immigrant from Germany, said she heard some soon-to-be citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish during her American citizenship ceremony.

Penney now a Victoria resident and waitress at Ramsey's, said she had to learn English to become a citizen. She supports a controversial, proposed legislation that would make English the country's official language.

H.R.997, the English Language Unity Act of 2009, aims to declare English as the official U.S. language. It was introduced as potential legislation on Feb. 11, 2009.

"I couldn't ask everybody to speak German," said Penney, 38, who moved to the county 20 years ago. U.S. immigration laws already require a command of the English language, but allow an exemption for certain people over the age of 50.

Jackie Parks, a Victoria resident, agrees with Penney.

"It would only make sense from Day 1," Parks said.

Tim Schultz, director of government relations for U.S. English, an organization dedicated to preserving the role of the English language, said the bill would stimulate immigrants to learn English.

Schultz said it has been proven beneficial through the states that have made English their official language.

"Studies have shown ... immigrants are more likely to learn English in states that have official English language policies," Schultz said.

Thirty states enacted the policy, he said.

Parks said the English language is the foundation of this country and fears that there may be a language barrier as a result of not having an official language.

"If we don't make it our prominent language, we're going to have teachers teaching kids in all different languages," Parks said. "This has nothing to do with being negative toward immigrants. I'm saying English is where we are."

Angela Hernandes, 84, of Victoria said she's spoken English since she was 7, but is not sure how because her mother did not speak English.

"I think it's very important," said Hernandes, who believes making English the official language would be an educational benefit. "It would put you through a better education."

Schultz added if the bill passes, it would not be an English-only act, and people could continue to have translators under certain circumstances.

"We don't want an English-only. We also don't want an English-optional society. That's what we're in danger of right now," Schultz said.

Related story: Con: Having an official language would push back progress



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