Wisconsin’s English Language Trojan Horse

By: Daniel Nardini

                             Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Wisconsin State Representative Andre Jacque has introduced legislation to make English the official language of Wisconsin. Under the proposed legislation, all state government documents would be in English, and all government affairs would be conducted in English (with the exception of allowing some “individuals” to teach another language in the public schools and for translating all suspects’ rights into another language should they not understand English). The legislation would not prohibit non-governmental (i.e. private) institutions from using or teaching other languages. This proposed legislation would not change the use of other languages being used to help people without English ability from calling 911 emergency services.
                              Jacque’s legislation has little chance of passing. Even though the Republicans have a majority in the state legislature, they now have little incentive to pass this law. Why? Because of what happened in the 2012 presidential election. Even though the Republicans dominate the state’s political institutions, the state went primarily for the Democratic Party and for President Barack Obama. This is in large measure due to Latinos voting overwhelmingly for Obama. Latinos have become a voting bloc in Wisconsin politics, and their voting power can no longer be underestimated. Even current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being noncommittal about the legislation. Walker has ambitions about becoming a presidential candidate for his Republican Party in 2016, and going for legislation like this only hurts his chances.
                               I should point out that Jacque’s viewpoint that Wisconsin should have an official language flies in the face of the state’s history. For close to 100 years, Wisconsin’s most popular and most widely used language beyond English was German. This was due to the sheer number of German immigrants who went to Wisconsin and developed the state’s economy. The descendants of these German immigrants went on to found so many of the businesses that exist to this day, and become part of the political process. Like immigrants from the time, these German immigrants realized the importance of learning English and having their children and grandchildren attending school. The same is true for Latinos. It is too bad that some state legislators are behind the times.

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