Text: H.R.123 — 105th Congress (1997-1998)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (01/07/1997)

[Congressional Bills 105th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 123 Introduced in House (IH)]

  1st Session
                                H. R. 123

    To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the 
       official language of the Government of the United States.



                            January 7, 1997

 Mr. Cunningham (for himself, Mrs. Emerson, Mr. Armey, Mr. DeLay, Mr. 
   Linder, Mr. Goodling, Mr. Riggs, Mrs. Roukema, Mr. Ballenger, Mr. 
Barrett of Nebraska, Mr. McKeon, Mr. Sam Johnson of Texas, Mr. Talent, 
Mr. Knollenberg, Mr. Souder, Mr. Norwood, Mr. Peterson of Pennsylvania, 
Mr. Archer, Mr. Young of Alaska, Mr. Stump, Mr. Bereuter, Mr. Solomon, 
Mr. Thomas, Mr. Porter, Mr. Bliley, Mr. Hunter, Mr. McCollum, Mr. Wolf, 
Mr. Burton of Indiana, Mr. Gekas, Mr. Kasich, Mr. Sisisky, Mr. Saxton, 
   Mr. Barton of Texas, Mr. Bunning, Mr. Gallegly, Mr. Hastert, Mr. 
     Herger, Mr. Pickett, Mr. Shays, Mr. Clement, Mr. Duncan, Mr. 
 Rohrabacher, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Ramstad, Mr. Cramer, Mr. 
 Ewing, Mr. Bachus, Mr. Calvert, Mr. Collins, Mr. Deal of Georgia, Ms. 
  Dunn, Mr. Goodlatte, Mr. Horn, Mr. King, Mr. Miller of Florida, Mr. 
  Royce, Mr. Lewis of Kentucky, Mr. Barr of Georgia, Mr. Bilbray, Mr. 
Bryant, Mr. Burr of North Carolina, Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Christensen, Mr. 
Coburn, Mr. Ganske, Mr. Hayworth, Mr. Nethercutt, Mr. Ney, Mr. Salmon, 
    Mr. Watts of Oklahoma, Mr. Weldon of Florida, and Mr. Hulshof) 
 introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on 
                      Education and the Workforce


                                 A BILL

    To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the 
       official language of the Government of the United States.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Bill Emerson English Language 
Empowerment Act of 1997''.


    The Congress finds and declares the following:
            (1) The United States is comprised of individuals and 
        groups from diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic 
            (2) The United States has benefited and continues to 
        benefit from this rich diversity.
            (3) Throughout the history of the United States, the common 
        thread binding individuals of differing backgrounds has been a 
        common language.
            (4) In order to preserve unity in diversity, and to prevent 
        division along linguistic lines, the Federal Government should 
        maintain a language common to all people.
            (5) English has historically been the common language and 
        the language of opportunity in the United States.
            (6) The purpose of this title is to help immigrants better 
        assimilate and take full advantage of economic and occupational 
        opportunities in the United States.
            (7) By learning the English language, immigrants will be 
        empowered with the language skills and literacy necessary to 
        become responsible citizens and productive workers in the 
        United States.
            (8) The use of a single common language in conducting 
        official businesss of the Federal Government will promote 
        efficiency and fairness to all people.
            (9) English should be recognized in law as the language of 
        official business of the Federal Government.
            (10) Any monetary savings derived from the enactment of 
        this title should be used for the teaching of the English 
        language to non-English-speaking immigrants.


    (a) In General.--Title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding 
at the end the following new chapter:


``161. Declaration of official language of Federal Government.
``162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language.
``163. Official Federal Government activities in English.
``164. Standing.
``165. Reform of naturalization requirements.
``166. Application.
``167. Rule of construction.
``168. Affirmation of constitutional protections.
``169. Definitions.
``Sec. 161. Declaration of official language of Federal Government
    ``The official language of the Federal Government is English.
``Sec. 162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language
    ``Representatives of the Federal Government shall have an 
affirmative obligation to preserve and enhance the role of English as 
the official language of the Federal Government. Such obligation shall 
include encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the 
English language.
``Sec. 163. Official Federal Government activities in English
    ``(a) Conduct of Business.--Representatives of the Federal 
Government shall conduct its official business in English.
    ``(b) Denial of Services.--No person shall be denied services, 
assistance, or facilities, directly or indirectly provided by the 
Federal Government solely because the person communicates in English.
    ``(c) Entitlement.--Every person in the United States is entitled--
            ``(1) to communicate with representatives of the Federal 
        Government in English;
            ``(2) to receive information from or contribute information 
        to the Federal Government in English; and
            ``(3) to be informed of or be subject to official orders in 
``Sec. 164. Standing
    ``A person injured by a violation of this chapter may in a civil 
action (including an action under chapter 151 of title 28) obtain 
appropriate relief.
``Sec. 165. Reform of naturalization requirements
    ``(a) Fluency.--It has been the longstanding national belief that 
full citizenship in the United States requires fluency in English. 
English is the language of opportunity for all immigrants to take their 
rightful place in society in the United States.
    ``(b) Ceremonies.--All authorized officials shall conduct all 
naturalization ceremonies entirely in English.
``Sec. 166. Application
    ``Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the provisions of 
this chapter shall supersede any existing Federal law that contravenes 
such provisions (such as by requiring the use of a language other than 
English for official business of the Federal Government).
``Sec. 167. Rule of construction
    ``Nothing in this chapter shall be construed--
            ``(1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or an employee or 
        official of the Federal Government, while performing official 
        business, from communicating orally with another person in a 
        language other than English;
            ``(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or 
        Native American languages (as defined in the Native American 
        Languages Act);
            ``(3) to discriminate against or restrict the rights of any 
        individual in the country; and
            ``(4) to discourage or prevent the use of languages other 
        than English in any nonofficial capacity.
``Sec. 168. Affirmation of constitutional protections
    ``Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to be inconsistent 
with the Constitution of the United States.
``Sec. 169. Definitions
    ``For purposes of this chapter:
            ``(1) Federal government.--The term `Federal Government' 
        means all branches of the national Government and all employees 
        and officials of the national Government while performing 
        official business.
            ``(2) Official business.--The term `official business' 
        means governmental actions, documents, or policies which are 
        enforceable with the full weight and authority of the Federal 
        Government, and includes publications, income tax forms, and 
        informational materials, but does not include--
                    ``(A) teaching of languages;
                    ``(B) requirements under the Individuals with 
                Disabilities Education Act;
                    ``(C) actions, documents, or policies necessary 
                            ``(i) national security issues; or
                            ``(ii) international relations, trade, or 
                    ``(D) actions or documents that protect the public 
                health and safety;
                    ``(E) actions or documents that facilitate the 
                activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any 
                census of population;
                    ``(F) actions, documents, or policies that are not 
                enforceable in the United States;
                    ``(G) actions that protect the rights of victims of 
                crimes or criminal defendants;
                    ``(H) actions in which the United States has 
                initiated a civil lawsuit; or
                    ``(I) using terms of art or phrases from languages 
                other than English.
            ``(3) United states.--The term `United States' means the 
        several States and the District of Columbia.''.
    (b) Conforming Amendment.--The table of chapters for title 4, 
United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new 

``6. Language of the Federal Government.....................     161''.


    This title (and the amendments made by this title) shall not 
preempt any law of any State.


    The amendments made by section 3 shall take effect on the date that 
is 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

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