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Letter to the Senate opposing the Inhofe English-only amendment to the immigration bill

May 22, 2007

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to urge your opposition to an English-only amendment to be offered by Senator Inhofe to the immigration bill currently under discussion. This amendment will impact the education of English-language learners (ELLs), deprive people with limited English proficiency of critical services to which they are otherwise eligible, and jeopardize the health and safety of the public. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 110th Congress.

NEA is particularly concerned about the impact of the Inhofe amendment on the millions of ELLs in our public schools. Seventy-five percent of the four million ELLs in our classrooms are native-born U.S. citizens. We believe the amendment would hinder significantly the ability of educators to communicate with non-English-speaking parents and would undermine the parental involvement so critical to student success. 
  
In addition, the Inhofe amendment would jeopardize the government's ability to communicate with the public in urgent situations. The provision's broad sweep could impact the ability of federal emergency workers to provide information and instructions in languages other than English in the event of a natural disaster or threat to national security. In addition, it could impact communication by medical personnel with patients at federal hospitals, and the government's ability to convey warnings or post danger or hazard signs in languages other than English. 

The Inhofe amendment does nothing to foster English proficiency. In fact, it ignores the most direct and effective way to increase English language skills: providing opportunities for adequate and affordable English acquisition programs.

Again, we urge the Senate to reject this dangerous amendment and, instead, to look for real solutions to encourage and enable non-native speakers to learn English.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy