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Bill would make English official language of U.S. government

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. AP

Two conservative Republican lawmakers, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), introduced the English Language Unity Act of 2011 on Friday, a bill that requires that all official United States government functions be conducted in English.

"A common language is the most powerful unifying force known throughout history," King said in a release. "We need to encourage assimilation of all legal immigrants in each generation. A nation divided by language cannot pull together as effectively as a people."

Added Inhofe: "This legislation will provide much-needed commonality among United States citizens, regardless of heritage. As a nation built by immigrants, it is important that we share one vision and one official language."

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

The bill would also establish a uniform language requirement for naturalization and oblige federal government officials to encourage people to learn English.

In response to the measure, Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano of New York addressed reporters in Spanish Friday, asking them, "como esta?" (That's Spanish for "how are you?") He said the bill reflects a non-issue that nonetheless comes up every once in a while.

Serrano added that while it's natural for grandparents speak Spanish, second generations are completely bilingual. With the third generation, he said, the grandmother is always complaining about the kids' Spanish and why they don't play soccer.

According to the advocacy group U.S. English, Inc., more than 700 members of Congress have co-sponsored or voted for measures on making English the official U.S. government language dating back to 1981. The English Language Unity Act attracted 140 co-sponsors when introduced in the last Congress.

King, a leading conservative voice on immigration issues, has also introduced a bill to end the practice of birthright citizenship.

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