Should English Be the Official Language of the U.S.?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Habla Ingles, por favor. So far, 27 states have made English their official language. Now there's a push on Capitol Hill to make it the national standard. Heather Nauert is here with the story.

Hi, Heather.

HEATHER NAUERT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, this is an issue that's been talked about in Washington for years. In fact, this is the 53rd time that a bill has been introduced in Congress to make English the official language of the United States.

We're joined now by Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who just introduced the English Language Unity Act of 2005.

Congressman, today's "Big Question," why should English be the official language of the United States?

REP. STEVE KING, R-IOWA: Well, people that come here as immigrants want to learn the language of opportunity. And we have some folks in this country that discourage them from doing so. Immigrants coming to the United States, all of them, come from a nation that has at least one official language because all of humanity has known the lesson from all of history, that language, a common language, is the most powerful unifying force known to man throughout all of history.

NAUERT: When you say some people coming here are discouraged from learning English, what do you mean by that?

KING: Well, I'm referencing the teaching at our universities, the activist liberals that are discouraging the idea of assimilation. And they're telling new arrivals here that you don't have to learn our culture and you shouldn't have to learn our language and we can adapt our culture to your needs and your wants. And that discourages the learning, and it encourages people living in ethnic enclaves.

They miss that opportunity for growing their own wealth through that. On average, they earn 17 percent less if they don't learn the language. Plus, it's happening generationally. We're into now sometimes the third generations of Americans that don't learn to speak English, and they're isolated from the rest of the country.

NAUERT: So tell us what your legislation would potentially do to make sure English becomes a language that everybody speaks and that everybody understands.

KING: Well, it's just a soft touch. It's a velvet glove that just simply establishes English as the official language of the United States of America and requires that official documents and official meetings be conducted in English.

And so what it does more than change the current practice — and it will change some of the current practices — is establishes it so that we don't have more proliferation and we don't have citizenship ceremonies being conducted in Spanish, for example. The activists are eroding the commonality of our unity of our language today.

NAUERT: Well, we do know when we go to the Department of Motor Vehicles or any sort of place where you get a public service that there are a lot of signs and so forth in other languages. You know, some would just say what's so wrong with that?

You have people here who don't necessarily speak English as their preferred language. We've had generations of immigrants who have come over. Many of our grandparents came over from Europe and all across the world. What's wrong with having this little crutch just to help them out?

KING: Well, if we keep building crutches, we have to build crutches in 300-some languages, as opposed to two or three or four, like there are today.

NAUERT: Are you suggesting that some people are trying to say, OK, let's put these signs in every single language out there?

KING: I think that's the logical conclusion. And, in fact, I see it with the federal posters that you have to post on a construction job, for example. That's a multitude of languages, and there isn't enough ply board in the country to do that for everybody if we're going to accommodate every language.

NAUERT: But is there something wrong with having a couple of the main languages that people speak in the United States, let's say Spanish and Chinese, for example?

KING: Well, there will always be another language added. In Iowa, for example, the first language that we allowed drivers' licenses tests in was Korea — or Korean. And that now goes into about seven different languages.

So it's always going to grow if you encourage that utilization of other languages. I want to teach and learn language. I think that's important to do that. But it's also important to have an official document, an official language.

If you go to court and try to determine a disagreement on a contract and you can't interpret the contract back to a common language, and you don't have a legal basis for that, then our whole legal system breaks down as well.

NAUERT: Now, some of the critics of your legislation and other bills before it say that this will simply prevent people from trying to get some of the very important services that they need. Health care services, for example.

KING: Well, we make logical common sense exceptions for health care, for justice, for other areas. And as I said, this is a velvet glove approach. But we want to discourage the proliferation of government services in more and more languages as a way to accommodate.

I took a cab ride with a fellow from Bosnia. He hardly had an accent. He spoke no English seven years ago, and today he speaks a very competitive and very good version of English with almost — without an accent. I said, "How did you learn that?" And he said, "Well, I drive a cab in Washington, D.C. It helps when you have to learn."

NAUERT: All right. Congressman King, thanks a lot for joining us. Appreciate it.

KING: Thank you, Heather.


GIBSON: Gracias, Heather.

Content and Programming Copyright 2005 Fox News Network, L.L.C. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, L.L.C.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.