To the editor:
Legislation for English-only or English as the official language as proposed by Assemblyman Brian Kolb and cosponsored by Assemblyman Joe Erigo among others is a waste of taxpayer money and a waste of legislative resources. Bill A5340 would make English the official language of the State of New York.
Obviously, English is already the language of our state and nation.
Similar bills have been approved in some 30 states, but have been ruled unconstitutional and are seen largely as symbolism. Many Latinos in our region are native-born, American citizens and speak English with fluency.
Latino leaders promote learning of the English language to those who have recently arrived in our nation as the clear path to gaining secure employment, to achieving academic success and achieving the “American dream.” Intentionally or not, this legislation incites racial biases against Latinos and other recently arrived immigrants. In the United States, people have the constitutional right to freedom of expression in the language of their choice. We have the right to speak among ourselves in whatever language facilitates effective communication. Our children can speak to each other in Spanish in the school hallways or on the bus. Our elderly can speak Spanish in the market. Speaking Spanish, our workers or employees can help recently arrived people learn their professions.
Punitive methods designed to create a society in which English is the only language go against the nature of a great nation built by immigrants and enriched by tolerance. As long ago as the 1850s, American public schools offered bilingual education: French in Louisiana; German in Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota; and Spanish in California and the Southwest.
It has long been commonly believed that individuals learn more easily when they are taught in a language they understand. Studies based in evidence confirm this.
The current economic crisis reminds us that we live in a global economy. Speaking two or more languages makes an employee and his employer more competitive.
I invite Assemblymen Kolb, Erigo and other co-sponsors of this proposal to visit some of the programs of the Ibero-American Action League to learn first-hand that English-only legislation would only hurt immigrants on the road to making themselves into good citizens, good students, workers and neighbors.
Hilda Rosario Escher, President and Executive Director
Ibero-American Action League