Immigration Reform 2013: This Time Around, No One Cares About Making America "English Only"

A favorite (attempted) pastime of lawmakers has long been pressing the "English-only movement." Here the aim is to get the Senate to pass a bill making English the official language of the U.S. But in today's world, where outstanding immigration law is crumbling before our eyes, the idea that we need to make English the official language has fallen from a congressional cultural priority to lucky-if-it's-remembered-after-lunch.

There are still sparks of this cultural assimilation today in Congress. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who sponsored the previous amendments to comprehensive immigration bills that would make English the official language, once more filed a similar amendment this year. Yet, there hasn't been any pressure to put the bill on the floor to demand a vote, even though it's expected to be the final week of the bill.

The simple truth is, no one pays the "official English language" debate any mind because no one has the time or energy to raise the issue. In fact, it would probably cause a stir simply because it diverges from the actual pressing issues of immigration itself inside the Gang of Eight bill, like requiring language education, determining who pays what taxes, etc. Not to mention that there is a possibility that this may alienate the major French and Spanish (and everything else) populations within the United States.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who at one point supported the Inhofe amendment, said "every other damn thing" besides English as the official language has been brought to the test and has been hotly debated in immigration reform this year.

Although the Inhofe amendment was approved before, the Senate has become more Democratic as dozens of those who supported the amendment have left the chamber. Not only that, but party leaders like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), President Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden opposed the amendment as senators.

Since the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-Ak.) passed, his pro-favor votes for officially making English the language of the U.S. are left to a man who says it's a proposal of a bygone era. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich stated that, "People learning English, which is the big issue on the immigration bill, seems reasonable ... But making it the official language? I don't sense that it's a hot topic. Maybe it was eight or nine years ago."

The only people who really do seem to continue backing the bill are some Tea Party advocates; however, they support the idea because of their belief that immigration must have a stronger focus on assimilation. The Gang of Eight bill actually already addresses the need for English education, as it would require registered immigrants 16 or older to demonstrate proficiency or at least be enrolled in an English-proficiency course to pursue a green card.

The English as official language amendment itself however would attract the support of a mere three to five moderate Democrats from red states, which leaves it short 60 votes. Ultimately, this means that we as a people would rather occupy ourselves with the deeper issues at hand, as opposed to trying to define our culture and country in one more way or another.