A group of Minnesota Republican State Senators and Representatives have introduced similar legislative bills in the House and the Senate that would make English the official state language. The bills have been called racist and an attack on immigration.
The Senate Bill SF0175, introduced this week by Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen- R District 11, "would make it illegal for the state to require documents, proceedings or other state activities to be in a non-English language. Exceptions are made for defending criminal defendants and protecting the public health or safety," according to the Star Tribune.
"Voter's instructions and ballots, for example, would be printed only in English. The written tests for those applying for driver's licenses would be taken in one language, instead of six, reported the Star Tribune. In the 1920's Minnesota printed voting instructions in nine different languages. "Today, voting instructions are translated from English into Hmong, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese and Somali, reflecting Minnesota's largest immigrant groups."
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-District 28B, who authored the House version, HF0064, said:
"This bill accomplishes three things: 1) It would cut costs of translating and printing materials in multiple languages at a time when the state is facing a $6.2 billion deficit. 2) It would help new immigrants learn English. 3) It would unite people."
"I look it as a unifying law," he said. "We're one state. We're one country. This is America. This is Minnesota. We welcome all kinds of people to come here, legally, of course. And when they do, we welcome them here and welcome them to learn the language, to join the culture, to join the American dream and to be successful, reports the Star Tribune."
But not everyone agrees with Rep. Drazkowski and Sen. Ingebrigtsen's proposed legislation.
Hispanically Speaking News said, "This bill is nothing more than a racist attack against immigrants in Minnesota that speak other languages."
Groups advocating for the rights of immigrants who wish to become residents of Minnesota say "the policy is not good for the state," according to the Minnesota Independent. “This bill is inconsistent with our state’s traditions of tolerance and acceptance, those that welcome all people regardless of religion, ethnicity, or ancestry,” said Allison Lebow, spokesperson for the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network. “Since the arrival of European immigrants in the mid-1800s, Minnesota has become an increasingly multilingual state.”
Lebow said that many Minnesotans strive to welcome newcomers with tolerance and acceptance, but this bill would have the opposite effect.
“We can be proud of our high levels of literacy and civic engagement, but not when specific groups of people are denied the opportunity to participate,” she told the Minnesota Independent. “If Minnesota adopts this bill, we are continuing racism and segregation in a cosmopolitan world that will move forward without us.”
The Star Tribune reports "GOP majorities in the Legislature could send the bill to the governor's desk. But as with many recent GOP-sponsored bills, Gov. Dayton said he was against English-only legislation while on the campaign trail."
U.S. English reports "31 states have made English the official language. A 2010 poll by Rasmussen found the strongest ever recorded support for official English legislation. The survey found that over 87 percent of Americans favor making English the official language of the United States. This included strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents and support across all socioeconomic groups," said US-English.org.