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[Congressional Record: March 13, 2003 (Extensions)]
[Page E464-E466]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

            THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE UNITY ACT OF 2003--H.R. 997


                            HON. STEVE KING

                                of iowa

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, March 13, 2003

  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, I have introduced legislation to make 
English the official

[[Page E465]]

language of the United States Government. The English language is the 
carrier of liberty and freedom throughout history and the world. For 
centuries, our common tongue, English, has been the uniting force in 
this great nation, knocking down ethnic and religious barriers to make 
us truly one nation. Today, as we rally for unity and patriotism a 
common means of communication propels us toward our goal.
  The English Language Unity Act declares English the language of the 
United States. Like its predecessors, it does not affect the teaching 
and study of other languages. It does not deter the use of other 
languages in the home, community, church, or elsewhere. The Act 
includes commonsense exceptions to the policy, for international 
relations, national security, teaching of languages, and preservation 
of Native Alaskan or Native American languages.
  A common language has enabled generations of Americans to realize the 
dream of American opportunity and freedom. Studies continue to prove 
those who know English get better jobs, earn more money and receive 
better health care than those who cannot speak the language. As a 
result, an emphasis on English decreases reliance on the federal 
  The need for official English appears in our newspapers every day--
injuries in the workplace, mistranslations at hospitals, people who are 
unable to support themselves and their families--all because they could 
not speak English.
  Recognizing a common language is neither racist nor exclusionary. It 
is a principle enacted by 177 countries worldwide to allow for the 
transmission of ideas and customs and to allow people of multiple 
cultures to come together. This bill does not inhibit people from 
speaking other languages, nor does it attempt to place any limits on 
culture, religion or customs.
  The Unity Act gives newcomers an opportunity to succeed in the United 
States. It bonds the newcomer with his fellow Americans, allowing both 
to reach for the highest rung on the economic ladder and provide for a 
  According to the U.S. Department of Education, those with limited 
English proficiency are less likely to be employed, less likely to be 
employed continuously, tend to work in the least desirable sectors and 
earn less than those who speak English. Annual earnings by limited 
English proficient adults were approximately half of the earnings of 
the total population surveyed.
  Few doubt this reality. In a 1995 poll by the Luntz Research firm, 
more than 80 percent of immigrants supported making English the 
official language of the United States. They are joined by 86 percent 
of all Americans who agree with English as the official language of the 
United States.
  Similar English legislation in the 104th Congress, H.R. 123, drew 197 
bipartisan House cosponsors and won a bipartisan vote on August 1, 
1996. That spirited effort, led by our late colleague Bill Emerson, is 
unfinished business that we must attend to for the benefit of all 
  Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully request that the following 
document, prepared by the national group U.S. ENGLISH, Inc. be inserted 
into the Record. This document is a compilation of news stories from 
major newspapers across the United States which highlights numerous 
incidents where the inability to speak English has resulted in very 
serious consequences.
  I urge my colleagues to cosponsor The English Language Unity Act of 
2003 in the 108th Congress so that we can ensure that all Americans 
have the opportunity to attain the American dream.

        Language Barrier Dangerous, Often Deadly, for Immigrants

       The high rate of immigration to the United States is 
     rapidly changing the face of America, primarily due to the 
     massive numbers of limited-English speakers arriving daily to 
     our shores. There are 21.3 million people living here today 
     who do not speak English ``very well.''
       Following are but a few recent snapshots of appalling 
     episodes that occur regularly in communities around the U.S. 
     Tragic situations like these can be averted if immigrants are 
     given every opportunity to learn English:

             Philadelphia Struggles Under Language Barriers

       Language has become a big problem in Philadelphia, with 
     about 65,810 Philadelphians, or 4.6 percent of the city's 
     population, being isolated by language barriers. Two recent 
     examples of linguistic troubles:
       Elderly Russian-speaking residents were ``clueless'' after 
     being thrown out of their adult day care center because they 
     didn't understand recent eligibility changes that had been 
     sent to them in the mail and were written in English.
       Dominican Republic shopkeepers couldn't meet requirements 
     of food inspectors because they didn't speak English.

(Philadelphia Daily News, Sept. 25, 2002, originally reported by Scott 

                      Crash Caused by Language Gap

       An accident on a state highway in New Hampshire was caused 
     when an English speaking passenger said, ``You're going to 
     take a left at exit 5,'' while trying to teach a Spanish 
     speaking driver how to operate a motor vehicle. The driver 
     proceeded to make a sharp left and collide with a tree. The 
     car was totaled, but both occupants escaped unharmed.

(The (Manchester, NH) Union Leader, July 23, 2002, originally reported 
                         by Sherry Butt Dunham)

                            Medical Mishaps

       Immigrants, both because of language problems and cultural 
     differences, are at risk for communicating with their 
       There's the story of the Hispanic mother who gave her child 
     11 teaspoons of cough medication because she read the English 
     word ``once'' as the identically spelled Spanish word for 
     eleven. The child lived, but the mistake could have been 

 (Passaic (NJ) Herald News, July 2, 2002, originally reported by Sarah 

 Man Accused of Killing Brother-in-Law, Uses Language Barrier to Show 

       Language skills played a central role in a Rhode Island 
     courtroom when the defense claimed the accused had not been 
     read his rights in his native language of Gujarati. The 25-
     year old, who had been in the United States for 12 years, is 
     accused of murdering his brother-in-law in a Portsmouth 
       Though the accused gave a statement admitting to the crime, 
     the defense claims that the charges of murder, conspiracy to 
     commit murder, committing assault with the intent to rob, 
     conspiring to commit robbery and discharging a firearm while 
     committing a crime of violence resulting in a death should be 
     dismissed because the Miranda warning was meaningless to a 
     man whose 1991 report card gave him an ``LB'' [language 
     barrier] grade in reading and writing.

    (The Providence (RI) Journal-Bulletin, Apr. 5, 2002, originally 
                      reported by Alisha A. Pina)

                  Linguistic Ghetto Hits Professionals

       Even though many immigrants to the U.S. bring impressive 
     resumes and skills, the language barrier sidelines thousands. 
     The stories are endless and familiar:
       The Iraqi political refugee who was a college professor in 
     Iraq, with a doctorate in international development from 
     Oklahoma State University. A specialist in agriculture, he 
     now directs terminal traffic at Atlanta's Hartsfield 
     International Airport.
       The West African surgeon who once trained other doctors as 
     a member of the World Health Organization, and once served as 
     the only doctor in a refugee camp in Ghana that housed 
     thousands of people. He worked nonstop, rarely getting a full 
     night's sleep. Today, he works in a warehouse in Lithonia, 
     Ga. He can't be certified as a doctor in America until he 
     masters English well enough to pass the medical exams.

  (Cox News Service, Jan. 15, 2002, originally reported by John Blake)

    japanese woman dies in freezing temperatures, language barrier 
                          contributing factor

       A woman holding a crude map of a tree next to a highway and 
     wandering around a landfill aroused the suspicions of 
     Minnesota police, who later determined she was looking for 
     the treasure featured in the fictional movie ``Fargo.'' 
     Though officials attempted to explain to the woman, who spoke 
     only Japanese, that neither the movie nor the treasure was 
     real, attempts to overcome the language barrier were nearly 
     insurmountable. Six days after being placed on her way home, 
     her body was found by a bow hunter 60 miles east of Fargo.

   (The Bismarck Tribune, Jan. 8, 2002, originally reported by Deena 

                 teenage moms get unexpected `surprise'

       Each year the California Department of Social Services 
     prints calendars to help teenage mothers cope with a daunting 
     world. They include nutritional tips for babies and mothers, 
     immunization charts, job and domestic violence hotlines, tips 
     for living a responsible life.
       This year an unexpected surprise: A toll-free number for a 
     phone sex line. The number was printed by mistake on 32,000 
     Spanish-language calendars sent to 169 county CalWORKS 
     offices, community organizations and job centers across the 
       Normally, someone at the department, who would call the 
     phone numbers to make sure they were correct, would proofread 
     the English- and Spanish-language calendars, But this year, 
     after the English-language version was translated into 
     Spanish at Chico State, no one at the department proofread 

    (Sacramento Bee, Jan. 1, 2002, originally reported by John Hill)

             immigrants face deadly mix due to language gap

       Orange County, Calif., is dealing with a startling increase 
     in the number of Hispanics and immigrants killed on the job, 
     part of a 33 percent rise nationwide, even as the overall 
     number of fatalities has declined. An investigation into the 
     records found that nearly half of the persons killed while 
     working over the last three years were immigrants.
       Experts say that language barriers and lack of training 
     play a major role in the trend. OSHA investigations have 
     found a lack of understanding of instructions and a lack of 
     use of safety gear in many inquiries following workplace 
     incidents. Worse, OSHA

[[Page E466]]

     found that many immigrant worker casualties go unreported.
       One Orange County worker died from a fall into a 175-degree 
     vat of chemicals at an Anaheim metal-plating shop. Though the 
     company's instruction manual clearly forbid walking on the 5-
     inch rail between tanks, it was printed in English, not a 
     language that the worker understood. A subsequent inquiry 
     into the accident found that many of the recent hires were 
     neither trained to handle hazardous materials nor proficient 
     in English.

(The Orange County (CA) Register, Oct. 21, 2001, originally reported by 
              Natalya Shulyakovskaya and Alejandro Maciel)

             language barrier impede police investigations

       After failing to solve only two of 11 homicides in the 
     prior 12 months, Lexington, Ky., police had failed to make 
     arrests in six of 13 homicides in an eight month span in 
     2001. Officials attribute the lack of closure to the 
     difficulty with the language barrier, encountering more 
     witnesses and relatives who spoke English poorly or not at 
     all. ``Any time you have a language barrier, it's going to 
     slow you down,'' said Lt. P. Richardson of the Lexington 

 (Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader, Aug. 28, 2001, originally reported by 
                           Jefferson George)

            language barrier often turns robbery into murder

       Police in New Jersey stepped up patrols after a series of 
     attacks on gas station attendants in the early morning hours. 
     Gas station employees in New Jersey are especially 
     vulnerable, as the Garden State is one of only two states to 
     prohibit self-serve gasoline.
       Police surveillance and drive-bys were increased to allay 
     fears among workers, though officials cautioned late-night 
     gas attendants, 95 percent of whom are estimated not to speak 
     English, to not resist when confronted with a robbery 
     situation. ``The language barrier could play a big part,'' 
     said Sgt. Steve Choromansky, ``Sometimes a robber might think 
     someone is stalling, when they're just unsure of the 

 (The Bergen County (NJ) Record, Aug. 28, 2001, originally reported by 
                     Leslie Koren and Peter Pochna)

                spanish-labeling mistake in baby formula

       Hundreds of batches of infant formula were recalled when it 
     was found that the preparation instructions in Spanish were 
     incorrect. As written, the Spanish instructions created a 
     product that could lead to seizures, irregular heartbeat, 
     renal failure or death in infants.

             (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jul. 11, 2001)

                   billions spent on medical mishaps

       An immigrant woman gave her 85-year-old mother a 
     dangerously high dose of blood pressure medicine because she 
     couldn't understand the label's English-language 
     instructions. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 
     $20 billion a year is spent hospitalizing people who, because 
     of the language barrier, take the wrong dose of medication, 
     take the wrong medication entirely or mix drugs in dangerous 
     combinations. Health experts say millions of immigrants risk 
     injury or death because warnings on medicine bottles only 
     come in English.

    (Associated Press, Oct. 12, 1997, originally reported by Lauran 


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