Since Alexander's amendment reflected extraordinary bipartisan congressional common sense, it passed the Senate 75-19. The amendment was approved by the House 218-186, and headed for the conference committee.
Then the Hispanic caucus had a tantrum, threatened to block passage of every bill until the amendment was removed, and blocked debate on a popular revision to the unpopular Alternative Minimum Tax. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., trotted out inflammatory accusations of "bigotry and prejudice."
Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., yelled that "There ain't going to be a bill" with the Alexander language. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., halted all action on appropriations to fund the FBI, NASA and the Justice Department.
The government also discourages assimilation by printing foreign language ballots, even though only U.S. citizens are supposed to vote. Another way that government programs retard assimilation is by forcing children with Hispanic-sounding names into Spanish-language classes in public schools, often over the opposition of their parents.
One of the most objectionable anti-assimilation policies is former president Clinton's Executive Order 13166, which requires all recipients of federal funds to provide all information and services in any language requested by any recipient of federal funds, such as a private-practice physician who accepts a Medicare or Medicaid patient. Despite the unnecessary costs and unpopularity of this unilateral Clinton action, the Bush administration has continued the policy.
All Republican presidential candidates affirmed in the televised debate from New Hampshire on June 5, under questioning by Wolf Blitzer, that English should be "the official language of the United States." Only John McCain offered a muddled modification about Native Americans using their own languages.
That's why it's unfortunate that the Republican candidates agreed to participate in a Spanish-language debate sponsored by the Spanish-language television channel Univision.
Memo to Republican presidential candidates: English language is as valuable an issue for you as drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, an issue that forced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., candidate for president in 2008, to reverse themselves. Go for it, and leave Pelosi and Reid scrambling to deal with the divisions in their own party.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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