Republicans push English-only bill, requires language tests

Republicans in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would declare English the official language of the United States and require the development of English language testing guidelines for those applying for U.S. citizenship.

The English Language Unity Act would set out a new chapter in U.S. code that imposes an obligation on U.S. officials to "preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the Federal Government."

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Part of this chapter would include a "uniform English language rule" holding that "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."

To ensure this outcome, the bill would require the secretary of Homeland Security to issue a proposed rule for testing the English language ability of candidates for citizenship. The bill envisions possible exceptions to this standard but says these exceptions "should be limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as asylum."

The bill also says English language requirements and workplace policies in the public and private sectors "shall be presumptively consistent with the Laws of the United States."

"This legislation will provide much-needed commonality among United States citizens, regardless of heritage," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who sponsored S. 503. "As a nation built by immigrants, it is important that we share one vision and one official language."

"We need to encourage assimilation of all legal immigrants in each generation," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the House sponsor of H.R. 997, the companion bill. "A nation divided by language cannot pull together as effectively as a people."

The House bill is being sponsored by 60 House Republicans, but the Senate bill had no co-sponsors as of Friday.