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A Discussion of the English-Only Laws

Compare and contrast both sides of the English-only issue and explain your position on the debate.

(1) Use the Internet to research at least three to five states' voter-driven initiatives/laws relating to English language learner issues.
(2) Compare and contrast each of those laws.
(3) Explain the benefits as well as the challenges of each of those laws.

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The English-Only movement, also known as Official English movement, refers to a political movement for the use only of the English language in official government operations through the establishing of English as the only official language in the United States. There have been various unrelated incarnations of the movement throughout American history. (Wikipedia)These movements have resulted to several state legislations and court rulings in America. Undoubtedly, each of these state legislations and court rulings had become subjects of discussions and debates. This paper shall be an attempt to present the two sides of the issue on ”English-Only” law.

Roots of the Official English and English-Only movements are apparent in xenophobic hostility during the early 1900's toward immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. For example, Nebraska's 1920 constitutional amendment declaring English the official state language grew out of anti-German sentiment. By 1923, thirty-four states had laws that declared English the language of school instruction. Since then, most states have enacted laws that require the use of English in specific situations, such as in testing for occupational licenses. In the 1980's, resurgent xenophobia, directed this time toward Latino/a and Asian immigrants, revived interest in and support for comprehensive English language laws. Organizations, such as U.S. English, formed to urge states and Congress to enact Official English and English-Only laws that encompass all aspects of government. (Steven W. Bender)

The impacts of the “English-Only” laws vary from State to State which adopted it. For examples are the law which “declared English as the Arizona state’s official language”, “prohibited state employees from using languages other than English”, and the South Carolina's language statute prohibiting any "order" or "decree" that "require[s]" the use of any language other than English.

The movement to make English the official language of the United States gained momentum at both the state and federal levels in the mid-1990's. In 1995 alone, more than five bills designating English as the official language of the United States were introduced in the U.S. Congress. In September 1995, Representative John T. Doolittle (R-Cal.) proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would establish English as the official language of the United States (H.R.J. Res. 109, 104th Cong., 1st Sess., 141 Cong. Rec. H9670-04 [1995]). The proposed amendment states, in part:
“The English language shall be the official language of the United States. As the official language, the English language shall be used for all public acts including every order, resolution, vote or election, and for all records and judicial proceedings of the Government of the United States and the governments of the several States” (

What are the arguments behind the English-Only movements, and how did these movements justify the English-Only Laws from the critics of the laws?

In 1919, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American ...