Gingrich: English should be national language
Cox News Service, Denver Post

By Eunice Moscoso

Washington - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that American civilization will "decay" unless the government declares English the nation's official language and works aggressively to help immigrants learn English.

"Immigrant parents want their children to compete in the core American economic system and to have the highest possible income. That inherently requires mastering English," Gingrich said. "Those people who would trap immigrants into linguistic ghettos ... are in fact denying them the opportunity to pursue happiness."

Gingrich, a Republican who might run for president, spoke at a news conference sponsored by ProEnglish, an organization pushing for English as the nation's official language.

Gingrich said that bilingual education in the United States,  which puts non-English speakers in separate classes, has been "stunningly destructive" and that the money spent on bilingual education should be transferred to English-immersion programs for students.

He also said that the federal government should create English-immersion centers for adults, offer vouchers to help immigrants take English classes online or buy English-learning products, and stop printing voting ballots in other languages.

"We should have a principle that government documents are in English," Gingrich said.

Gingrich also said that he has nothing against other cultures and welcomes Spanish-language television stations and Vietnamese newspapers, but that English must be a unifying force in the country.

Advocates oppose stance

Immigrant advocates and civil-rights groups say that making English the nation's official language would infringe on people's right to free speech, would encourage discrimination against immigrants, and could make it difficult for people with limited or no English to receive basic public services such as health care.

John Trasvina, president and general counsel of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that a national official English law is unnecessary and would "embolden those who want to discriminate against people with an accent and people who don't speak English."

"Latinos and immigrants do not need a law to tell them that English is the language to get ahead in the United States," he said. "A conservative like Newt Gingrich ought to know that you don't pass a law, you provide English classes."

Several counties, cities and towns across the United States have passed ordinances declaring English their official language as part of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, including Cherokee County, Ga., and Farmers Branch, Texas.

In addition to cities and towns, 28 states have laws that make English their official language, including Arizona, where voters approved a proposition in November to make English the state's official language.