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Sweet debate special: Obama sees through GOP English-only moves. Report 3.

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OUTSIDE MANCHESTER, N.H.— At the debate, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)said he sees through the move by some GOP lawmakers to make English the official language. To Obama, it’s just a way to create a wedge issue. He did well making his point.


“This is the kind of question that is designed precisely to divide us,” he said. “You know, you're right. Everybody is going to learn to speak English if they live in this country. The issue is
not whether or not future generations of immigrants are going to learn English. The question is: How can we come up with both a legal, sensible immigration policy? And when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people.”

7 Comments

I agree that Sen. Obama answered the question in a statesman-like manner. On the other hand, I think he is wrong about it being a manufactured issue. I think there are a sizable number of Americans (likely leaning Republican) who are concerned about possibly having to learn Spanish to get a job in America, to communicate with repair persons, etc. Already there are communities where knowledge of Spanish is a job requirement for many service jobs.

It is a mistake to think that all Spanish-speaking persons living in the US will learn English. I've been told English is a tough language to learn as a second language. Learning Spanish as a second language is supposedly much easier. If everything in the US is presented in Spanish as well as English, will the immigrants have incentive to learn English?

I think I preferred Sen. Gravel's answer.

It's difficult to understand why our politicians consider declaring "English" the official language as a "divisive" issue. I did not agree with the Democrats' extreme opposition to it last year either. If you work in any hospital, you would understand just how important and expensive this issue has become. Doctors are hesitant to handle a patient unless an interpreter is present....and even if one is located, he may not have the right dialect. To have hundreds of interpreters on hand is impossible. To declare "English" as the official language would force immigrants to learn the language sooner and eliminate the confusion, mistakes, and huge interpreter costs! In many cases, it would also help doctors make the correct diagnosis sooner and save lifes!

Mr. Obama is correct. People who have come to this country from elsewhere are already dealing with many cultural and social changes. You can be sure that they would love to speak English to make these changes a bit simpler. That's called human nature. If we want to truly help with this issue, maybe we should consider community language classes staffed by those who fear this communications issue the most. Any community volunteers out there in the conservative churches or right wing political organizations? To make an official language law would be another attempt to create an impossible enforcement issue and most definitely another divisive attempt by those who want to continue to use fear and deception as main drivers to modify the intent of our constitution and legal system.

In reading the previous posts, I have noticed that many people have stated that if English is made the official language that immigrants would be forced to learn it. How can one come to that conclusion? People will still use whatever tounge they can most effectively communicate in. People cannot be forced into using English just because it's the official language of the U.S.
The facts that some may deem as unfortuate is that this country is still very young, has had a long history with Mexico since it's birth, and is in a hemisphere where the majority of people speak Spanish. Therefore it's only natural that this country will absorb more Spanish speakers wether they be illeagals or not.
Miami, for example, is already a melting pot of people from all over South America as well as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico and it's hard to get around on just English. But this didn't happen overnight, it has happened over nearly 50 years. The city evolved into what it is today and the people have evolved as well.
The fact is that if you are hell bent on having people conform to you, you'll lose.

Lets reframe this issue in the light that it should be seen in. If you or I were to be relocated in a country that did not have our native English tongue, we would immediately start the process of learning that language in order to thrive. We no longer have a situation in this country that behooves immigrants to learn English. Every sign, label, even ballots are printed in Spanish,also. That is the real problem, and the lack of formal education of most of the illegal immigrants is secondary. I cannot believe that this discussion is even going on except for the fact that both of our major parties and specifically the Democratic Party is pandering for future votes. English is this country's language. If you don't want a Hispanic subculture, then you better think about encouraging the use of English.

Perfect example of why the Dems still are not ready to lead. When asked a question they are uncomfortable with the first reaction is not to stand up and speak with reason, but to object to the question? Same weakness as not debating on Fox. If you can't handle questions from Fox how the heck are you going stand up to maniacs who want us all dead? We need grown ups in charge, not weak-kneed limp biscuits!

I'm a Democrat and speak three foreign languages (in addition to English) and I support making English the official language. If Barack Obama supports the teaching of foreign languages, which I do also, let him say that. But by appearing to place Spanish on the same level as English in the United States, Obama offends me and other non-conservative voters who believe that an official language is part and parcel of national identity. Brazil and Argentina, both immigrant nations every bit as much as the United States, have adopted one official language (Portuguese and Spanish, respectively). Italy adopted Italian only last year. The United States is on the same road, and I support such efforts.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 3, 2007 9:32 PM.

Sweet debate extra. Edwards goes after Obama, Clinton. Report 2. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet debate special: Inside the Spin Room. Report 4 is the next entry in this blog.

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