Earlier in the week, OKPNS wrote about a family in Bartlesville who has filed a federal complaint against Oklahoma because the Drivers License test was not in their native language (Farsi). We would like to know if you think the state of Oklahoma should have to comply with such requests.
Archive for the ‘English Only’ Category
Senate Bill 163, by state Reps. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) and George Faught (R-Muskogee), was amended Wednesday to put the English question to a statewide vote next November. The proposed constitutional amendment would make English the official language of state government in Oklahoma.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Terrill, R-Moore. “We need to focus on what unites us, not what divides us. English is a common bond that we can all agree upon.”
“The man on the street wants this,” said Faught, R-Muskogee. “It’s a no-brainer. In this country, we have a common currency, common law, and a common language that everyone needs to learn.”
Senate Bill 163 was amended in the House General Government and Transportation Committee to include the “official English” proposal. The legislation passed out of the committee on Wednesday and now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Under the provisions of the bill, private individuals and businesses would still be allowed to use whatever language they choose.
The bill also contains exemptions for the languages of Oklahoma’s 39 federally recognized Native American tribes and allows the use of both Braille and sign language in government services. The legislation also contains a number of other specific, narrowly tailored exceptions for things like public health and safety, as well as trade, commerce and tourism.
Terrill and Faught said there are three compelling reasons to make English the official language of Oklahoma.
First, the bill will prevent the state from being compelled to provide taxpayer-subsidized services in any language other than English. Terrill:
There is currently no legal basis for denying someone’s request that the state provide services in another language, creating significant potential problems for the state.
For example, he noted a recent Associated Press story indicated the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has been threatened with a lawsuit because the state does not provide the written portion of a driver’s license test in Farsi.
Second, the two lawmakers said making English the official language “avoids all of the cost, burden and conflict” associated with bilingualism and multilingualism. Terrill:
Bilingualism and multilingualism are inherently divisive. Just look at the Canadian province of Quebec for a case study. In Quebec, you have a cultural and linguistic minority that routinely threatens to separate from the rest of the nation.
There are approximately 120 separate languages spoken in Oklahoma, Terrill said, and only 21 of those languages are spoken by more than 1,000 individuals. Research indicates more than 100,000 people in Oklahoma (age 5 and up) have limited English proficiency. Faught:
If we don’t make English the official language, the state could be forced to hire translators fluent in all 120 languages and in sufficient numbers to staff all state offices. That would be an enormous financial burden that provides minimal benefit. And every dime spent on translators would be a dime taken away from our classrooms, law enforcement or highway projects.
Most importantly, the lawmakers said making English the official language of state government would promote assimilation for all immigrants. Faught:
The government should encourage immigrants to assimilate and Americanize, and becoming fluent in English in a cornerstone of that process.
Terrill noted that English proficiency provides enormous financial benefits for immigrants. Individuals working full time who cannot speak English earn an average $15,196 per year. Those who work full time who do not speak English in their home but possess an intermediate level of English proficiency earn an average $26,004 per year. Full-time workers who speak another language at home but are proficient in English earn an average $30,691 per year.
That may be why a national poll conducted by Zogby International found that 65 percent of Hispanics support making English the official language. That poll found support was even higher among first- and second-generation Americans.
If approved by voters, the official English law would have three main impacts. First, there would no longer be any bilingual or multilingual driver’s license tests. Second, when citizens call a state agency, they will no longer be greeted by a “press 1 for English” prompt. Finally, there would no longer be any official state forms or signage in any language but English, unless covered by one of the specifically enumerated exceptions previously noted.
On Feb. 7, The Tulsa World reported that its poll found 88 percent of Oklahomans surveyed believe English should be made the state’s official language.
A separate Wilson Research Strategy poll showed 82 percent of all Oklahomans support making English the official language.
More than 30 states have already approved official English laws and so have more than 50 nations around the globe. Terrill:
Oklahoma is actually out of step with the rest of the nation and, frankly, the rest of the world because we have not made English our official state language. It’s time we joined our neighbors and promoted greater national unity.
State Sen. Harry Coates (R-Seminole) said he was appalled that Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, was “gaveled down” during a House committee hearing on legislation to make English the “official” language of Oklahoma.
The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation was not allowed to share his concerns about the legislation and was treated badly. I believe he should have been given the courtesy of expressing his views in what is supposed to be the people’s house.
Smith said he found it very odd that he was not allowed to speak, but that public input was allowed later in that same committee on another bill. He also said he was offended that the measure’s author, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, was attempting to use the “awesome power” of the State of Oklahoma to forcibly assimilate people. Smith continued:
We’ve been trying to resist forced assimilation for centuries. It’s probably one of the most patronizing and paternalistic insults that I’ve ever heard…
Coates pointed to the tremendous contribution of the Native American Code-Talkers whose ability to pass on sensitive information in tribal languages aided the effort by the allies to win World War II.
Coates said despite exemptions in the bill for languages of the 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, he’s also heard from other tribal members and leaders who oppose this legislation as divisive and discriminatory. Coates:
They remember all too well a time when Native Americans were targeted by English-only school policies that were part of an effort to destroy their culture and way of life. There are many stories of Indian children who were literally beaten as punishment for not speaking English.
Coates said he had no doubt the bill has its supporters.
I’m sure hate groups like the KKK applaud the actions taken today. Are these the people we really want to pander to?
The amended bill will now go before the full House of Representatives.
I’m certain SB 163 will pass in the House, and then it will come straight back to the Senate Floor for a final vote. But before that happens, I hope that people will think about the serious ramifications this will have for Oklahoma, putting us in an even more negative light world-wide and promoting greater discrimination against all minorities.
Smith concluded the interview by saying:
…What this has become is a badge and a brand of intolerance, mean-spiritedness, close-mindedness, cold-heartedness.
The Tulsa World is reporting that an Iranian family in Bartlesville has complained that the Oklahoma Drivers license test is not available in their native language (Persian/Farsi). As a result, they had to go to Kansas, to take a picture-based test, then come back to Oklahoma to exchange the licenses so that they could get jobs in Bartlesville.
Randy Terrill (R-Moore)responded:
It makes a compelling case for why English should be the official language in Oklahoma: Driver’s license testing in Farsi! Don’t laugh. I know it’s funny, but this is not a joke. Everyone wondered just when the slippery slope would begin. Today that has been answered. Now, the only relevant public policy question is how will it end?
According to the report in the Tulsa World:
The formal complaint was filed with the government by [a relative who is] a senior in economics at the University of Oklahoma.
The chief legal counsel for the Department of Public Safety, Wellon Poe, said the agency plans to formally respond to the complaint later this month.
“I think we’ve acted correctly and properly,” Poe said. He said the incident is the only time the state has ever been asked to provide its driver’s license test in Farsi.
Poe said the complaint could be dismissed after the agency responds or the government could order state officials to take corrective action to comply with federal civil rights requirements.
If the state does not comply, it could be penalized by the withholding of federal transportation money.
Legislation is currently being considered to make English the official language in Oklahoma. Do you think this legislation is right for Oklahoma?
Randy Terrill, author of the the HB 1804 immigration bill, has proposed legislation to make English the official language in Oklahoma, reports Barbara Hoberock, of the Tulsa World Capitol Bureau. Terrill said:
It deals with the right of the state, as a sovereign entity, to control the method and manner in which it communicates with citizens and the citizens who must communicate with it…If enacted, he said, the bill would eliminate bilingual driver’s license tests, bilingual state signs and agency telephone recordings in other languages…This bill will prevent the state of Oklahoma from being compelled to deliver any taxpayer-funded services in any language other than our official language, which is English.