Some PA Reps. would rip out the welcome mat for immigrants

At our central chapter’s annual meeting in June in State College, Rev. Warren Eshbach told a great story about how the Church of the Brethren came to colonial America. Rev. Eshbach is a prof at Elizabethtown College and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and as he told the story, when the church started in Europe, its members were persecuted, tortured, and even killed because they refused to follow the faith of the prince.

An American colonist named William Penn invited the members of the church to come to his colony to freely practice their faith.

In 2005, some members of the state House of Representatives would debase that legacy of welcoming immigrants to the Commonwealth. HB 2089 would designate english as the “official” language of PA and, thus, would rip out the welcome mat from under the feet of those who emigrate to the U.S. and choose PA as their home.

Here is the statement from Larry Frankel, ACLU-PA legislative director:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposes House Bill 2089, which seeks to establish English as the official language of the Commonwealth. We think that this legislation is unconstitutional, will lead to costly litigation, and will hurt Pennsylvania’s ability to attract innovative companies and good jobs.

A small number of other states have passed English only bills. Courts in three states – Alaska, Arizona and Oklahoma – have found these laws to be unconstitutional because they violate the free speech rights of citizens and state employees. There is no reason to think that Pennsylvania’s venture down this path will lead to a different result.

Passage of this legislation will lead to costly litigation. Even if it were deemed to be constitutional, there will be numerous lawsuits arising from arbitrary denial of governmental services to domestic violence victims and individuals needing police protection or health care because such individuals have limited English proficiency. Adopting English as the official language of the Commonwealth will not lead to a reduction in paperwork or the size of government. Rather, it will spawn a new generation of lawsuits over the enforcement of the law.

Finally, passage of this legislation will send a bad message to international businesses thinking of locating facilities here in Pennsylvania. Why would such companies want to be in a state where there is an official expression of hostility to people who don’t speak English? Why would such companies choose to come here when they could locate in another state, where the government is open to people who speak other languages? This bill will hurt Pennsylvania’s ability to create jobs.

Rep. Babette Josephs is a leader in opposing this bill, and here is her press release. Also, The (Allentown) Morning Call wrote an editorial on the legislation last Thursday.

14 thoughts on “Some PA Reps. would rip out the welcome mat for immigrants

  1. Then there should be ample evidence that this has led to costly litigation, arbitrary denial of governmental services to domestic violence victims and individuals needing police protection or health care because such individuals have limited English or Spanish proficiency, and a reduction in international businesses locating facilities there.

    Though I may sound sarcastic, this could well be the case. Perhaps it will come up.

  2. That one elected official, what was his name, said migrants in Lancaster County make 50 grand a year milking cows. I owned a dairy farm- you can be sure no milker is making 50 grand, leat a migrant (probably not even the owner, our last year as owners we made 11 grand). It’s stupid people like him who say stupid things like that and people believe him and then are anti-immigrant.

  3. Then there should be ample evidence that this has led to…

    The same must be said by proponents of the bill, too. What great social crisis do we face if we maintain the status quo? Is english becoming obsolete? Do we need to make it the official language to keep it from disappearing forever? Hardly.

    This bill is red meat for the GOP’s conservative base, i.e. the Pat Toomey crowd. They’re PO’ed about the pay raise, and this is an attempt to placate them and play to their anti-immigrant tendencies.

    Meanwhile, Republicans from southeast PA lay awake nights b/c of this kind of stuff b/c they know that they can’t be associated with the fringe wing of the GOP or they’ll risk losing their seats. But they’re also afraid to say no to leadership.

    This bill is nothing more than a political game.

  4. It’s a nice essay, EXCEPT for the fact that William
    Penn required all people settling in his colony to
    speak English.

    — Roger Coppock, descendant of early Quaker settlers

  5. You guys do a great service for our country and I applaud all of your efforts (great job in the Kitzmiller/ Panda case.) In this case however you are way off base. Are you trying to create a tower of Babble? Of course English should be the official language. If it is not then you are forcing all the citizens of PA to learn all the foreign languages. This is insane. Although I don’t feel you should have to speak english to live in PA, one better start learning when he gets here. Letting the states set the official language is like allowing them to set there own time zone. Please for the sake of convenience and convention back off this one.

  6. e-lad: Everyone who wants to work in America, legal or illegal, wants to learn and understand English. In fact, everyone in the whole WORLD who wants to amount to anything wants to learn and understand English. English is the “official language” of the entire world, as it stands, and does not need any help from the citizens of PA to maintain and further this status. This bill is not designed to help anyone or to solve a real problem, it is meant to cause hard working immigrants, LEGAL as well as illegal, pain. It is basically mean-spirited, small minded, ethnic bullying on the part of people who are too lazy to compete with those of this world who have the energy and gumption to pick up their feet and do something to better themselves. It is beneath the dignity of our National Spirit of hard-working independence and self motivated self-improvement.

    If you are worried that someone might not be able to understand or use English, volunteer to teach it. You won’t be short on students.

  7. I should have studied this a bit more before shooting my mouth off- as they say here in the burgh.

  8. On this and the following voting rights post, I am reminded of my maternal grandparents… They both came to US from Denmark, circa 1900 and met and married in the US in 1907.

    At home, they only spoke Danish because they didn’t want their kids to learn what they felt was their rather poor English. There were no bilingual classes in those days. There were no “English as a second language” classes. You couldn’t tell–by accent–any of their kids (my mother and her siblings) from anyone whose family had been in the US for generations. For that matter, my grandparents certainly spoke quite good (if somehwat accented) English by the time I knew them.

    It makes you wonder how the language has become so difficult in the past century….

    On the voting issue, my mother was visting her father late in his life. One day at his house (he being about 95 at the time), he told her it was election day and would she please help him get to the polls to vote. At first, she assumed he wanted to go to vote out of long-standing habit, so she started quizing him on the candidates and issues (she’d been reading the local papers while she was in town). She discovered that he knew who was running and on what platforms, who he was going to vote for–and exactly why. He the arguments on both sides of all the ballot issues–and why he planned to vote his preferred side of each of them. After this, she took him to the polls. he was certainly an informed voter, and probably better so than many that voted that day.

    I would ahve to say that all of the fuss over languages and voting rights is a strong indication that the “melting pot” hasn’t melted *enough* and the issues being fought over are secondary effects, not the cause of the problems seen.

  9. Fun PA Language Facts

    1) None of the first Pennsylvanians spoke English

    2) Many sectarian colonial religious groups spoke and speak Germanic languages other than English

    Today, even rural cities like Lancaster have significant “legal” monolingual Spanish-speaking populations. Would this bill eliminate Spanish-language voter registration forms?

    Luzerne County also has one of the highest concentrations of Polish speakers outside of Poland.

    This bill looks like a solution in search of a problem. Reject it emphatically!

  10. Let’s just make a law that ONLY people who watch and support the 700 Club can vote, ‘kay?

  11. Does anyone know exactly when this bill being voted on, and how I able to show support for it?…All the people who say that this is xenophobic- try working in the inner-city where you literally feel like you’re in a foreign country because hardly anyone around you speaks English….What motivation do these people really have to learn English?- They have their own community in there- They can work there or live off welfare without knowing English- do you really think this doesn’t erode America??…As someone once said- the country is supposed to be a melting pot, but in reality it is a tossed salad.

  12. I want to see all these employers who hired illegals fined and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The laws are already on the books. I hold the head of homeland security responsible for not enforcing these laws and letting these illegals drive down our wages, right after our incompetant president outsoursed all our good paying jobs. As a citizen of the U.S.A., a veteran and a Democrat I would like to press charges against this administration for not enforcing our laws concerning hiring illegals. bob

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