What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : Immigrants : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Salazar of Colorado amendment that would declare English the "common language" of the U.S./On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 197)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Salazar of Colorado amendment that would declare English the "common language" of the U.S./On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 197     Jun 06, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on an amendment by Ken Salazar, D-Colo., that would declare English as the "common and unifying language of the United States" and stipulate that nothing in the bill would diminish any existing laws related to providing government materials in languages other than English. The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system.

Salazar's amendment was introduced as a counterpoint to an amendment offered earlier by Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Inhofe's amendment would declare English the "national language" and also stipulate that, unless provided for in statute, no entitlement exists for providing government materials or communications in any language other than English. Inhofe's amendment was later adopted.

Salazar said that Inhofe's amendment is problematic because it runs contrary to several states' existing laws requiring that states provide documents in both English and Spanish. "I believe this is a States rights issue, and those constitutions of those States ought to be respected. There are other States in our Union which have decided they are going to adopt English as their official language. I believe that is a matter the States ought to decide. I do not believe it is a matter we ought to be imposing here from Washington," Salazar said.

Inhofe argued that adopting his amendment and then later adopting Salazar's would have the effect of gutting Inhofe's amendment. "I am just saying to you, as my friends out here, do not vote for both of us because if you vote for both of us, you are voting to make English the official language, and then, in the very next vote, you are taking it away and reinstating the original language in the bill," Inhofe said.

Salazar's amendment was adopted by a vote of 58-39. All but two Democrats voted for the amendment (Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas). Most Republicans voted against the amendment, though 11 voted for it. Thus, the bill went forward with language declaring English the "common" language of the U.S. and stipulating that nothing in the bill would diminish any existing laws related to providing government materials in languages other than English. Inhofe's amendment was also adopted. Because both amendments were adopted and contain contradictory language, the dispute will have to be resolved later. The next chance for the contradictory language to be fixed will be when the House and Senate meet for a conference committee, where differences between the two chambers' versions are resolved.

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