(Have Democrats here hit rock bottom? Read DocHoc’s commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette.)
Using the typical language of GOP tort reformers, state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) has called a lawsuit filed against the recently passed English-only amendment “frivolous,” according to a media report.
But the truth is State Question 751, sponsored by Terrill and approved by a staggering 75 percent of voters Nov. 2, was itself a frivolous and xenophobic exercise in trying to stop diversity by making it more difficult for immigrants and international visitors in Oklahoma.
According to The Associated Press’s Tim Talley, Terrill had this to say about the lawsuit:
This is just another frivolous lawsuit filed by a liberal law professor trying to forum shop for a judge willing to thwart the will of the people
James Thomas, a law professor at the University of Tulsa, filed the lawsuit on behalf of a woman who works with non-English speaking people in Oklahoma. Thomas has called the amendment “totally senseless,” according to the news report. The lawsuit seeks to stop the amendment’s implementation.
Here is the full text of SQ 751:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It adds a new Article to the Constitution. That Article deals with the State’s official actions. It dictates the language to be used in taking official State action. It requires that official State actions be in English. Native American languages could also be used. When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.
These language requirements apply to the State’s “official actions.” The term “official actions” is not defined. The legislature could pass laws determining the application of the language requirements. The Legislature would also pass laws implementing and enforcing the language requirements.
No lawsuit based on State law could be brought on the basis of a State agency’s failure to use a language other than English. Nor could such a lawsuit be brought against political subdivisions of the State.
Note the vague language about definition in the second paragraph and the legislature’s role in making the final determination. With a Republican-dominated government beginning next year, it’s obvious legislators will eliminate as many official documents now written in Spanish as it can.
Many opponents of the measure believe SQ 751 was directly aimed at Hispanic immigrants in the state. Terrill has previously sponsored anti-illegal immigration legislation and has promised to introduce more.
One major problem with English-only legislation is that it’s redundant. By default, English is already the official language in Oklahoma and the country. Why pass a bill that restricts access to people who are here legally? What about international college students who are here paying high tuition rates and honing their English skills? How will this measure affect them?
The ideas of English Plus are still valid despite the movement’s setbacks in recent years. The ideas are a more enlightened and intellectual approach to language in this country. The English Plus movement argues English “will remain the primary language of the United States,” but it also argues for second-language acquisition as well.
According to a founding document of English Plus:
The strength and vitality of the United States springs from the diversity of our people. By promoting cultural and democratic pluralism within our own borders, we also enhance our economic competitiveness and maintain our international leadership. In an interdependent world, the diversity of our people provides a unique reservoir of abilities and resources.
The English Plus concept holds that the national interest is best served when all members of our society have full access to effective opportunities to acquire strong English language proficiency plus mastery of a second or multiple languages. English Plus holds that there is a need for an expanded network of facilities and programs for comprehensive instructions in English and other languages.
Anyone who has traveled to other countries knows that English is in no danger of extinction. It’s the language of international business, and that provides a powerful incentive for people to learn English in other countries. But second-language acquisition also increases the intellectual capability of individuals. To be able to speak, write and think fluently in different languages is a hallmark of intelligence.
In an ideal world, Oklahoma leaders would push students here to learn more languages and push its residents to at least tolerate, if not appreciate, people from other countries who are learning English. Instead, we get xenophobic measures that push people away.
Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse here as the GOP takes over the government next year.