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James I.
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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator James M. Inhofe

    Posted on 2013-03-05

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    INHOFE (for himself, Mr. Coburn, and Mr. Chambliss): S. 464. A bill to declare English as the official language of the United States, to establish a uniform English language rule for naturalization, and to avoid misconstructions of the English language texts of the laws of the United States, pursuant to Congress' powers to provide for the general welfare of the United States and to establish a uniform rule of naturalization under article I, section 8, of the Constitution; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.



    Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, today I would like to introduce a piece of legislation that I believe is of great importance to the unity of the American people--the English Language Unity Act of 2013.

    That English Language Unity Act of 2013 recognizes the practical reality of the role of English as our national language and makes English the official language of the United States government, a status in law it has not had before, and calls on government to preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language.

    Let me be clear, nothing in the bill prohibits the use of a language other than English. The bill specifically exempts certain actions from requiring English, such as actions necessary for national security, trade, and protecting the public health and safety. The English Language Unity Act is an attempt to legislate a common sense language policy that a nation of immigrants needs one national language. Our Nation was settled by a group of people with a common vision. As our population has grown, our cultural diversity has grown as well. This diversity is part of what makes our nation great.

    However, we must be able to communicate with one another so that we can [[Page S1133]] appreciate our differences. When members of our society cannot speak a common language, misunderstandings arise. Furthermore, the individuals who do not speak the language of the majority miss out on many opportunities to advance in society and achieve the American Dream.

    The English Language Unity Act of 2013 requires the establishment of a uniform language requirement for naturalization and requires that all naturalization ceremonies be conducted in English. I want to empower new immigrants coming to our nation by helping them understand and become successful in their new home. I believe that one of the most important ways immigrants can achieve success is by learning English.

    There is enormous popular support for English as the official language according to polling that has taken place over the last few years. A large majority of Americans support making English the official language of the United States. There is also widespread and bipartisan support for this legislation, and I hope that you will join me this Congress in supporting the English Language Unity Act of 2013.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 464 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``English Language Unity Act of 2013''.

    SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress finds and declares the following: (1) The United States is comprised of individuals from diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and continues to benefit from this rich diversity.

    (2) Throughout the history of the United States, the common thread binding individuals of differing backgrounds has been the English language.

    (3) Among the powers reserved to the States respectively is the power to establish the English language as the official language of the respective States, and otherwise to promote the English language within the respective States, subject to the prohibitions enumerated in the Constitution of the United States and in laws of the respective States.

    SEC. 3. ENGLISH AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF THE UNITED STATES.

    (a) In General.--Title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new chapter: ``CHAPTER 6--OFFICIAL LANGUAGE ``Sec. 161. Official language of the United States ``The official language of the United States is English.

    ``Sec. 162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language ``Representatives of the Federal Government shall have an affirmative obligation to preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the Federal Government. Such obligation shall include encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the English language.

    ``Sec. 163. Official functions of Government to be conducted in English ``(a) Official Functions.--The official functions of the Government of the United States shall be conducted in English.

    ``(b) Scope.--For the purposes of this section-- ``(1) the term `United States' means the several States and the District of Columbia; and ``(2) the term `official' refers to any function that-- ``(A) binds the Government; ``(B) is required by law; or ``(C) is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public.

    ``(c) Practical Effect.--This section shall apply to all laws, public proceedings, regulations, publications, orders, actions, programs, and policies, but does not apply to-- ``(1) teaching of languages; ``(2) requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; ``(3) actions, documents, or policies necessary for national security, international relations, trade, tourism, or commerce; ``(4) actions or documents that protect the public health and safety; ``(5) actions or documents that facilitate the activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any census of population; ``(6) actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants; or ``(7) using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.

    ``Sec. 164. Uniform English language rule for naturalization ``(a) Uniform Language Testing Standard.--All citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution.

    ``(b) Ceremonies.--All naturalization ceremonies shall be conducted in English.

    ``Sec. 165. Rules of construction ``Nothing in this chapter shall be construed-- ``(1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or any officer or agent of the Federal Government, while performing official functions, from communicating unofficially through any medium with another person in a language other than English (as long as official functions are performed in English); ``(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American Languages Act); ``(3) to disparage any language or to discourage any person from learning or using a language; or ``(4) to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.

    ``Sec. 166. Standing ``A person injured by a violation of this chapter may in a civil action (including an action under chapter 151 of title 28) obtain appropriate relief.''.

    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of chapters at the beginning of title 4, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to chapter 5 the following new item: ``Chapter 6. Official Language''.

    SEC. 4. GENERAL RULES OF CONSTRUCTION FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEXTS OF THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES.

    (a) In General.--Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section: ``Sec. 8. General rules of construction for laws of the United States ``(a) English language requirements and workplace policies, whether in the public or private sector, shall be presumptively consistent with the Laws of the United States.

    ``(b) Any ambiguity in the English language text of the Laws of the United States shall be resolved, in accordance with the last two articles of the Bill of Rights, not to deny or disparage rights retained by the people, and to reserve powers to the States respectively, or to the people.''.

    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 7 the following new item: ``8. General Rules of Construction for Laws of the United States.''.

    SEC. 5. IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS.

    The Secretary of Homeland Security shall, within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, issue for public notice and comment a proposed rule for uniform testing English language ability of candidates for naturalization, based upon the principles that-- (1) all citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States which are made in pursuance thereof; and (2) any exceptions to this standard should be limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as asylum.

    SEC. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    The amendments made by sections 3 and 4 shall take effect on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

    ____________________

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