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Arguments for and against the bill

On January 10, in a speech at the 1998 state convention of Utah's Eagle Forum, Representative Tammy Rowan offered her justifications for her English Only bill. She gave three: her belief that the bill will bring unity to Utah, that it will save Utah money, and that it will lead to economic empowerment of immigrants. We rebut those arguments below, and include additional reasons the bill would have a negative impact on Utah.

1. Would the bill increase Unity among Utahns?

In her speech, she said she was originally motivated to introduce the English Only bill upon seeing that "Canada is being torn apart because of a language barrier." She didn't explain how it was language, and not historical economic and social conflict, that was creating tension in Canada, or why Canada's experience was any more relevant to Utah than that of Switzerland, which peacefully coexists with 4 official languages. She has said that her bill would bring unity to Utah by requiring a shared language experience. However, note first that Utah, which is 95.8% Caucasian (97.3% of Rowan's Utah County residents are Caucasian) and more than 60% Mormon, is one of the most homogenous states in the U.S. If Utah had unity problems that should be addressed by the government (we don't believe it does) they would be due to religion, politics, or allegiances to university sports teams, not language.

More importantly, as Ignacio Garcia, a BYU Assistant Professor of History, points out, it is difficult to imagine how bill 189 could create unity. Professor Garcia was involved in working against similar legislation in Arizona. "To judge whether this bill will bring unity," he says, "you can look at the past performance of similar laws in California, Arizona, and other states." He says his review of both the anecdotal evidence and the studies performed on the impact of English Only laws show they increase polarization, not unity. This is caused by the anti-immigrant and anti-minority message the bill sends to non-English speaking residents, and because after withdrawing formerly available language services, local governments have not put extra efforts into helping non-English speakers learn English or cope with new service limitations.

Additionally, he says, "A law like this can encourage society's fringe elements to engage in discriminatory activity against minority groups." He gave as an example the case of a Spanish-speaking Texan who was ridiculed before a judge in open court for speaking Spanish. The judge referred to the woman's using Spanish to communicate with her children as a form of

child abuse. Another example of how an English Only law can provide an environment for discrimination is the recent case of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, a company in California that denied life insurance policies to people that didn't meet the company's English proficiency standards (After being sued, the company agreed to drop its English proficiency requirement).

2. Would the bill save Utah money?

2.A. How would the cost of publishing documents and providing services be affected?

In her speech to the Eagle Forum state convention, to give an idea of how expensive providing services in multiple languages can be, Representative Rowan said that Canada spends $6 billion a year in this effort. Her audience seemed startled when she said this, either because $6 billion is a lot of money, or because there is no obvious connection between Canada's experience and Utah's.

Consider the experience of the U.S. Government, which has a citizenry much more diverse than Utah's which speaks many more languages than do Utahns. A U.S. General Accounting Office study found that from 1990-1994, of the 400,000 documents printed by the entire U.S. Government, only 265, or .065%, were printed in a language other than English. "Practically English-Only," Washington Post, p. A-19 (Sept. 27, 1995).

In her convention speech, Ms. Rowan admitted she did not know how much money her bill could save; and in fact, a State of Utah report estimating how passage of the bill would impact State agencies shows there may be little or no cost savings. For example, the Department of Workforce Services reported that its language translations are performed at no cost by the Utah National Guard, that passage of the law would lead to a "loss of efficiency" in providing services, and that it would increase costs because of extra time needed to process complicated applications completed by customers who were less than fluent in English. Most of the other agencies reported passage of the bill would have either no effect on their budget, or any impact would be minimal. The agencies that identified the biggest expenditures, were the Office of Recovery Services, which reported it spends less than $2,000 annually in costs related to bilingual materials and translation services, and the Division of Youth Corrections, which said it spends less than $5,000 annually on such costs.

2.B. How would Utah's risk of facing expensive lawsuits be affected by the bill?

Rep. Rowan has also suggested passing the law will decrease Utah's risk of being sued by minority citizens. At the convention, she said that because of legal requirements, "if we begin providing services in any language other than English, there is no stopping until its available in all 120 [languages spoken in Utah]." The fact is, Utah has faced no such deluge of suits: it has not received even one. And, we have yet to see any evidence to suggest that it will. Instead, as mentioned above, from 1990-1996 the U.S. Government, with a more diverse citizenry that speaks many more languages do Utahns, printed only 265 out of 400,000 documents in a language other than English. (See cite in previous paragraph)

Passage of the bill will actually greatly increase Utah's chances of facing lawsuits. Though Rep. Rowan has claimed there is "no risk that this [Bill 189] will be challenged constitutionally, " the risk is very high that the bill, or its application, or both, will be challenged in court if it is passed. The Fall 1997 edition of the ACLU Reporter, a newsletter published by the ACLU of Utah, contained an article that examined the constitutionality of the bill. The article concluded that the bill created serious constitutional concerns, and was "likely to face legal challenges, if not from the ACLU, then from individuals and organizations committed to free speech and the rights of immigrants."

3. Economic empowerment?

Ms. Rowan claims the bill would lead to the economic empowerment of immigrants, and points out that if you can't speak English in Utah, the available jobs are usually very low paying. If her bill could do anything to help immigrants learn English, perhaps Utah's minority communities would favor it. As it is, the Utah Coalition of La Raza, the Centro de Familia, Image de Utah, the SLC County Hispanic Employee Association, and other minority organizations are against the bill. The bill would seem to make it more difficult for many non-English speakers to learn English. We give one example of how, below. But, the subject of how one can best learn a new language is very complex, and one example doesn't begin to cover the issues. We believe this matter is best addressed by persons who have experienced learning another language as a minority-language speaker, and by Utah's state agencies with expertise in this area. One of the detriments of the bill is that it would substitute an Orem legislator's judgement on language-learning by minority residents (remember, Orem is 97.3% Caucasian) for the judgement of Utah's agency experts and the communities and individual citizens who are faced with learning English.

Consider that bilingual educators say that for many adults, it can take over 5 years to become fluent in a new language. As just one example, imagine you're new to Utah, you speak Spanish, and that you want to learn English (as virtually all immigrants do; its the obvious path to a better economic status). You need money to pay for living expenses and for English classes. How to get the money? You work. How to get to work? You drive, or else your opportunities are very limited. How to get a driver's license? You take the driver's license exam. It's now available in Spanish. Could you pass it in English? Not now, and likely not until after you've had at least a couple of years of English classes. But, if this bill is passed, and the license exam is not offered in Spanish, you won't be able to get a license to drive to that job that allows you the extra time and money to take the English classes you want.



Reasons the bill should not be passed.

As discussed above, we believe that none of Rep. Rowan's offered justifications for the bill are valid. The bill will not foster unity among Utah communities. The bill will not empower immigrants that don't speak English. The only possible benefit the bill offers is a minimal cost saving in the thousands of dollars, that if achieved, would likely be swallowed by the greater expenses of providing more inefficient government services.

In the absence of justification for the bill, as outlined below, the Utah legislature is faced with several significant reasons not to pass it.

1. Especially in Utah, the bill's anti-minority and anti-immigrant message is inappropriate.

Utah, with its history of pioneers who fled here to escape intolerant state governments, and its experience with fighting an intolerant federal government, should be ashamed to now be considering using its laws as the mechanism of intolerance towards minority populations.

As the Salt Lake City Council stated in its resolution against English Only legislation, Utah "was founded on a commitment to democratic principles, and not on racial or ethnic homogeneity,

and has drawn strength from a diversity of languages and cultures and from a respect for individual liberties." The resolution also included a statement on the commercial benefits of multilingualism, saying it "is a tremendous resource to SLC and such resources encourage businesses to locate here and assists Salt Lake City companies to more easily expand their reach into the international market."

Rep. Rowan apparently disagrees that the bill sends an anti-minority message. She has said "I'm all for cultural diversity, that's what made America strong." We think the bill is isolationist, a reflexive "protect us from those that ain't like us" reaction. But the fact is, the intended recipients of any messages sent by the bill are the minority individuals and groups, not Utah's dominant Caucasian residents. As we learn (and re-learn) in relationships, when you're dealing with what another person feels or thinks, it's that person's feelings/thoughts that count, not your own opinions of what those feelings/thoughts should be. No matter Rep. Rowan's opinion, Utah's minority communities perceive this bill as offensive. As mentioned above, the Utah Coalition of La Raza, the Centro de Familia, Image de Utah, the SLC County Hispanic Employee Association, and other minority organizations are against the bill.

Final lines from decision:

"In closing, we note that tolerance of difference -- whether difference in language, religion, or culture more generally -- does not ultimately exact a cost. To the contrary, the diverse and multicultural character of our society is widely recognized as being among our greatest strengths. Recognizing this, we have not, except for rare repressive statutes such as those struck down in Meyer, Bartels, Yu Cong Eng, and Farrington, tried to compel immigrants to give up their native language."



2. The bill doesn't respect the place of Native American communities and individuals in Utah's history and present.

Obviously, Utah's Native American communities where here prior to both the Spanish explorers and priests and the Mormon pioneers. Utah's State Government has as one of it's goals assisting the Native American communities in preserving their cultures. This bill would work against that goal. It would prohibit Native American languages from being used by government institutions or employees in many situations. San Juan County, which includes part of a Navajo reservation, is 45% non-white. Is it appropriate for Rep. Rowan to tell San Juan County government institutions and workers that cannot communicate to Navajo residents in their native language.



3. The bill would create an environment open to discrimination

If this bill passes, it would support the tendency of some to think of someone who speaks another language as significantly different, or"other." This author remembers talking to the owner of a Provo business who ranted regarding a Mexican-American customer of the business that, "She can't even talk English right, why don't she just go back where she belongs." And, as Professor Garcia was quoted above: "A law like this can encourage society's fringe elements to engage in discriminatory activity against minority groups." He gave as an example the case of a Spanish-speaking Texan who was ridiculed before a judge in open court for speaking Spanish. The judge referred to the woman's using Spanish to communicate with her children as a form of

child abuse. Another example of how an English Only law can provide an environment for discrimination is the recent case of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, a company in California that denied life insurance policies to people that didn't meet the company's English proficiency standards (After being sued, the company agreed to drop its English proficiency requirement).

4. The legislation is an example of over-regulation, and would result in less efficient government.

Within the context of a society that already, without government influence, creates every motivation for immigrants to learn the dominant English language, the bill seeks to forcibly mandate this result. In doing so, it serves in a overbearing and heavy-handed fashion to reduce state and local governments' ability to communicate with and provide services to Utah residents.

If a government agency determines that it could most efficiently and cheaply carry out its mission by providing reports or forms in in Spanish and English, except for its few exceptions, this bill would prevent the multilingual services.

And, suppose Governor Leavitt holds an official meeting with a group of Spanish-speaking Utah residents. If this law passes, he could not choose to address the Utahns in Spanish. The bill says no mas to "all official documents, transactions, proceedings, meetings, or publications issued,

conducted, or regulated by.. the state and its political subdivisions"... in any language but English.

As the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in Yniguez v. Arizonans for Official English,

"More generally, the facts of this case, as well as elementary reason, tell us that government offices are more efficient and effective when state and local employees are permitted to communicate in languages other than English with consumers of government services who are not proficient in that language."

...

Indeed, as the parties acknowledged in the stipulation of uncontested facts, Arizona's interest in the efficiency and effectiveness of its workforce runs directly counter to Article 28's [the English Only law] restriction on public employee speech.

...

if the purpose of Article XXVIII were to promote efficiency, it would not impose a total ban but would provide that languages other than English may be used in government business only when they facilitate such business and not when they hinder it. Article XXVIII plainly does not make this distinction.

5. The bill is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.

The bill is likely to be held unconstitutional simply for its unreasonably broad scope in interfering with the ability of public employees to communicate with Utahns. As one example of this, it says that "all official documents, transactions, proceedings, meetings, or publications... regulated by ...the state and its political subdivisions shall be in English." What is regulated by the state? Insurance documents, prescriptions, transportation licenses, etc. Perhaps a better question is what is not regulated by the state.

Rep. Rowan has claimed "This bill does not restrict anyone's free speech." But, in fact, it does. It says that "all official documents, transactions, proceedings, meetings, or publications issued, conducted, or regulated by, on behalf of, or representing the state and its political subdivisions shall be in English."

That the law says "Languages other than English may be used (a) when required by the United States constitution, the Utah constitution, federal law, or federal regulation," doesn't mean the law doesn't restrict speech. In many communication situation, a person who could choose to speak one of two languages is not required to use the non-English language. Consider the example of a state employee holding an official meeting regarding a zoning ordinance with a group of Spanish-speaking Utah residents. There is no law that requires the employee to speak in Spanish.

The Arizona English Only law was initially overturned for exactly these reasons. Below is text from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision:

Article 28 [the English Only law] offends the First Amendment not merely because it attempts to regulate ordinary political speech, but because it attempts to manipulate the political process by regulating the speech of elected officials. Freedom of speech is the foundation of our democratic process, and the language restrictions of Article 28 stifle informative inquiry and advocacy by elected officials. By restricting the free communication of ideas between elected officials and the people they serve, Article 28 threatens the very survival of our democratic society.

See Yniguez v. Arizonans for Official English, 69 F.3d 920 (9th Cir. 1995) http://www.vcilp.org/Fed-Ct/Circuit/9th/opinions/9217087.htm Overturned by the Supreme Court on procedural ground (because the case was moot when heard in the lower courts as the plaintiff, a government employee, had stopped working for the government) Supreme Court Decision http://www.englishfirst.org/sctarizona.htm



As mentioned above, the Fall 1997 edition of the ACLU Reporter, contained an article that examined the constitutionality of the bill. The article concluded that the bill created serious constitutional concerns, and was "likely to face legal challenges, if not from the ACLU, then from individuals and organizations committed to free speech and the rights of immigrants."





5. The law is unnecessary, an example of heavy-handed big government.

Utah is 95.8% Caucasian (97.3% of Rowan's Utah County residents are Caucasian). We have one of the lowest percentages of non-English speaking populations in the country. Why Rep. Rowan feels a need to address this language issue with her bill is unclear.

No"English Only" law is needed to teach immigrants the usefulness of learning English. Their daily experiences in travel, school, shopping, entertainment, etc. teach this. There are no individual immigrant citizens or communities suggesting that immigrant should not or need not learn English. In fact, the evidence suggests that immigrant parents place more importance than other parents do on learning English. A 1985 Florida study showed that while 94% of Anglo and Black parents felt it was essential for their children to read and write English perfectly, 98% of Latino parents felt this way. "The 1985 South Florida market" (Strategy Research Corp. 1985).

And, note that in California, half of all recent Mexican immigrants speak English, while 95% of first-generation Mexican-Americans are proficient in English, and virtually all second-generation Mexican-Americans are proficient in English--more than 50% speak only English. McCarty and Valdez, Current and Future Effects of Mexican Immigration in California (The Rand Corp. 1985).

Given the potential negative impacts of the bill discussed above, as there appears to be no strong justification for the bill, the Utah legislature should overwhelmingly reject the bill.