September 19, 2011 / 11:25 PM / 7 years ago

Pennsylvania lawmakers: English-only bills would unify state

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Two Republican Pennsylvania state legislators said on Monday their proposals to declare English the official language of state government would be a unifying move that says “this is who we are.”

The proposal by Representative Scott Perry would declare that state government and municipal and school district business be conducted in English, and a similar bill introduced by Representative RoseMarie Swanger would apply only to state government.

The House State Government Committee held hearings last week, and the next step would likely be a committee vote on whether to send the bills to the full House. Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

“It’s a unifying action,” said Perry of York County in southeastern Pennsylvania. “The one thing that brings us together is our language.”

Swanger said she is concerned about the money spent printing government pamphlets and brochures in various languages and would prefer to see the money spent on teaching English courses.

She said her constituents originally raised the issue. “They just think we should make a statement,” she said. “This is who we are. This is what we speak.”

“I think we have been catering to outsiders very much,” she said.

Raul Gonzalez, legislative director of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group, said: “These bills are a solution to a problem that does not exist.”

He said more than 90 percent of people in the United States speak English, including immigrants.

He called the measures “a political coal-mine canary,” saying if legislators can get such legislation passed, it would clear the way for anti-immigration measures.

“If you can’t pass this, then you can’t pass something (that) is more anti-immigrant,” he said.

Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton

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