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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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English-only bill proposed in Minn.

Some feel making English the official language of Minnesota would be discriminatory.

A bill introduced in the state Senate last week would make English the official language of Minnesota.

It would eliminate any requirement for agencies to hire bilingual employees and make it illegal for most government business, including meetings and documents, to be conducted in any language other than English. It would also prevent anyone who needs an interpreter at a driverâÄôs test from getting a license.

The billâÄôs chief sponsor, Sen. Bill Ingebrigsten, R-Alexandria, said mandating an official language would save money and prevent lawsuits against the state for inaccuracies that might occur during foreign language interpreting.

“Folks moving into our country should expect to learn English,” he said.

If the bill passed, Minnesota would join a list of more than 20 states with similar legislation.

Rodolfo Gutierrez, executive director of HACER, a nonprofit research organization focused on Hispanic advocacy, said the bill would negatively affect Minnesota immigrants who enter under refugee status.

“It could damage the support for them to be really integrated into society,” he said.

English proficiency is required for University of Minnesota admission, so students would not be directly affected by the legislation, Gutierrez said.

However, the bill would prevent immigrants from becoming involved in University research programs in areas like public health and education, Gutierrez said, and would hinder assimilation into the community.

Gov. Mark Dayton opposed the legislation during his campaign and would likely veto it.

The bill was assigned to the State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, but Ingebrigsten does not know exactly when it will be heard. Committee member Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, said she will vote “no” on the bill, which she said promotes “a populous right-wing issue.”

Goodwin said RepublicansâÄô claims that the bill will lead to efficiency and cost cuts are misleading since Minnesota is federally mandated to provide non-English translation in many areas like health care and judicial services.

“ItâÄôs flat-out discrimination,” Goodwin said.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he will also vote “no” on the bill.

“My overwhelming impression is that itâÄôs designed to make certain people feel unwelcome in Minnesota,” Dibble said.

Dibble said he is concerned that non-English speakers will be deprived of services they pay for in taxes.

Ingebrigsten said Minnesota is merely following the example of other states that have passed language legislation to cut costs. HeâÄôs been signed on to the bill for four years. Now, with a Republican majority, he believes thereâÄôs a chance the bill will pass.

Louis Mendoza, associate vice provost of equity and diversity at the University, said a provision exempting foreign language teaching from the English-only bill is a contradiction.

Mendoza said the bill states the importance of multiple languages but disallows that knowledge to grow.

Still, the University will remain committed to teaching and learning outside the realm of English.

“The University itself will always respect, honor and teach multiple languages,” Mendoza said.

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