No need to make English official
We're regularly reminded that Pennsylvania is aging and losing population, while other states benefit from a migrating population and from immigrants who bring their energy and talent to them.
A couple of measures floating around in the Legislature are none-too-subtly designed to make Pennsylvania even less welcoming to the non-native born. They would make English the commonwealth's "official" language, and prohibit brochures or any other material coming from Harrisburg to be printed in anything other than English.
Conveniently setting aside America's melting-pot heritage, Rep. Scott Perry, R-York, proclaimed that "this is our country, our culture, our lifestyle and our language," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Apparently happy to shove a stick in the eye of anyone who wasn't swaddled in red, white and blue from birth, Perry added, "If our language doesn't suit you, no one forced you to come here and no one is forcing you to stay."
The bills would also reduce funding for English-as-Second-Language programs, which, of course, help non-English speakers learn the language and be able to read the material that would only be printed in English. As the French would say, c'est etrange.
Similar bills have been introduced, and become law, in other states, and it's tough to imagine there would be such a flurry of legislative action if the bulk of the immigrants pouring into the country hailed from, say, Quebec, Scandinavia or Germany. Because they are instead Hispanic or Asian, they've become the boogeymen of xenophobes who are uncomfortable with America's increasingly multicultural cast.
Untold thousands of people who came to Pennsylvania a century ago to work in its mills or mines were likely more proficient in Italian, Polish, German, Russian, or any one of a number of languages, and continued to speak it when they were with family or friends. Today's immigrants should be afforded the same respect and latitude as they become acclimated to this country.
Just as the world is being more interconnected and global, making Pennsylvania "English only" would slam the door on the rest of the world. If anything, we should be redoubling our efforts to teach and learn other languages.
- (Washington) Observer-Reporter