Saturday, May 20, 2006

National Language Dominates Senate Debate

This national debate always brings to mind the comedy routines of the late Jose Antonio Burciaga, muralist, artist, poet, writer and community leader. He had a wonderful comedy routine on how now (with English-only laws) we’re going to have to change the names of our cities. Focusing on California, he said that "Los Banos" is now "The baths," "Los Angeles" is now "The Angels," "San Francisco" is now "Saint Francis," "Los Gatos" is "The Cats," Palo Alto is now "Big Stick," "Manteca" is now "Lard," etc. With humor, he acknowledged such great ironies that present themselves to us today.

Also, NCLR’s response appears below. -Angela

National Language Dominates Senate Debate
Bush Backs New Fencing During Visit to Border Hot Spot

WASHINGTON (May 19) - Whether English is America's "national language" or its national "common and unifying language" was a question dominating the Senate immigration debate.

The Senate first voted 63-34 to make English the national language after lawmakers who led the effort said it would promote national unity.

But critics argued the move would prevent limited English speakers from getting language assistance required by an executive order enacted under President Clinton. So the Senate also voted 58-39 to make English the nation's "common and unifying language."

"We are trying to make an assimilation statement," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of two dozen senators who voted Thursday for both English proposals.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., disputed charges that making English the national language was racist or aimed at Spanish speakers. Eleven Democrats voted for his measure.

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo, offered the alternative. The only Republican to vote solely for Salazar's "common and unifying" language option was Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, whose home state's constitution prohibits discrimination on basis of inability to speak, read or write English or Spanish.

Both provisions will be included in an immigration bill the Senate is expected to pass and send to conference with the House, where differences will be resolved.

President Bush, who often peppers his speeches with Spanish words and phrases, had little to say about the Senate votes while visiting the Arizona-Mexico border. "The Senate needs to get the bill out," the president said.

Bush toured an unfortified section of the border in the Arizona desert Thursday, where he endorsed using fences and other barriers to cut down on illegal crossings. The Senate on Wednesday voted to put 370 miles of fences on the border.

Bush's border visit was part of his efforts to win over conservatives balking at his support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and a new guest worker program.

Bush asked Congress for $1.9 billion Thursday to pay for 1,000 Border Patrol agents and the temporary deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to states along the Mexican border.
His request was not warmly welcomed by some key senators.

Sen. Judd Gregg, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, delayed a vote on Bush's promotion of U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman to White House budget director to show his displeasure. He said Bush's request calls for using money for proposed for border security equipment to pay for operational exercises.

Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate Appropriations Committee's top Democrat, complained that he had offered amendments providing for border security nine times since 2002, only to have the Bush administration reject them as extraneous spending or expanding the size of government.

"If we had spent that money beginning in 2002, we would not be calling on the National Guard today," Byrd said.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers supporting the immigration measure continued to hold through the week. The group was able to reverse an amendment that denied temporary workers the ability to petition on their own for legal permanent residency, a step to citizenship.

Bill supporters restored the self-petitioning with the condition the federal government certifies American workers were unavailable to fill the jobs held or sought by the temporary workers.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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