As political candidates begin their presidential campaigns, our country seems to be more divided than ever. Political discourse has become less civil as differences on important public policy issues have become more pronounced. In a diverse plural democracy with different opinions, values, interests, and policy prescriptions; it is increasingly important, even necessary, to find common ground in order to promote the common good. To find something in both our present and historic past that will continue to unite us as a people and a nation during our collective journey into an increasingly uncertain future. In a nation that promotes and rightfully embraces diversity, the one foundational interest that unites us all is our shared and common language – English.

Does that mean that we should discourage people from speaking languages other than English? Of course not. Two leading announced candidates for the GOP nomination, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico The Hill's 12:30 Report Colbert mocks Trump for sipping water during speech on Asia trip MORE (R-Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), are bilingual in English and Spanish. We are justifiably proud to be a nation of immigrants who have and continue to speak multiple languages in our homes and among family and friends all across this great nation. We should never discourage Americans from speaking multiple languages. To do so is a professional, cultural, and personal asset; not a liability.

ADVERTISEMENT
However, by declaring English the official language of the United States, our national government would be institutionally promoting a unifying symbol of inclusiveness that has been resonating with the American people throughout our country. Today, 31 states have already adopted English as their official state language; with Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee, and Georgia either considering or already having introduced similar legislation.

Recent national and state polls have shown large and consistent public support for making English the official language of the United States. In fact, a recent bill in the West Virginia House, which would have made West Virginia the 32nd state to adopt English as the official state language, received the kind of bi-partisan support that we see in both large urban cities and small rural towns all across the country. Incredibly, 88 West Virginia House Members voted to make English the official state language, with only 4 voting no. The vote accurately reflected the common sense and popular will of 87 percent of West Virginia residents; Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who all supported the bill. A recent national Rasmussen survey found that an overwhelming 83 percent of Americans believe that English should be the official language of the United States.

This groundswell of popular interest and support among Americans on this issue at the State and national level has now reached Capitol Hill. Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators tear into controversial Trump environment nominee McCain backs Pentagon nominee despite concerns over defense industry ties GOP senators ask Trump for meeting on biofuels mandate MORE (R-Okla.) re-introduced the English Language Unity Act (S.678) on March 9, 2015. It establishes English as the official language of the United States. The legislation would require the federal government to use the English language when acting with binding legal authority. For instance, all naturalization ceremonies would be required to be conducted in English. However, the bill does make reasonable exceptions to permit the use of other languages in cases of national security, international relations, trade, tourism, public safety, health, and protecting the legal rights and interests of victims when both appropriate and necessary. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a sister bill, H.R. 997, in the House of Representatives.

When the Senate bill was first introduced, the co-sponsors included Sens. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFederal judge rules Trump defunding sanctuary cities 'unconstitutional on its face' FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Alabama election has GOP racing against the clock MORE (R-Ala.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanLobbying World The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal GOP senator undergoing follow-up surgery next week MORE (R-Ark.), David VitterDavid VitterQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe You're fired! Why it's time to ditch the Fed's community banker seat Overnight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending MORE (R-La.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.). It is also important to note that Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress must end American support for Saudi war in Yemen Black men get longer prison sentences than white men for same crimes: study Sarah Palin on sexual harassment: 'People know I'm probably packing' so they 'don't mess with me' MORE (R-Ky.) and Rubio, both Republican presidential contenders, have publically supported making English the official language of the United States.

With an increasingly diverse immigrant population living and working in the United States, it is more important than ever to use the inclusive and unifying power of the English language to bring us together as a people and a nation. Substantive academic and independent research studies have clearly shown that immigrant’s who are encouraged to learn English attain higher levels of education, are better able to both find and retain employment, earn a higher living wage, and are more economically and professionally successful. Being able to speak and write English also encourages our citizens to more actively participate in the civic, cultural, and political affairs of our country; including that most cherished of all Democratic rights – voting.

It is important that the United States Congress listens to the diverse voices of the American people, from every background and community, who support making English the official language of the United States. Again, we should be proud to be a nation of immigrants, to embrace diversity, and encourage our fellow Americans to understand and speak multiple languages. However, we should also embrace and elevate our one common and shared language; by making English the official language of the United States. Because Americans, regardless of their background, intuitively understand and appreciate the inclusive and unifying power that the English language has come to represent throughout our great nation.

Mujica, who immigrated from Chile, serves as the chairman of the Board of U.S. English, Inc., the nation’s oldest and largest non-partisan citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States. U.S. English, Inc. has over two million members, and was founded in 1983 by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.).