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October 2, 2023

Voting Should Require Proficiency in the Mother Tongue

Perhaps nothing can foster “out of many, one” more assuredly than by promoting a common language, national symbols, and a monolingual electoral system.

By Noel S. Williams

Fox Business partnered with Spanish language network Univision for wider coverage of the second Republican presidential debate.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, the Republican Party launched a Spanish language campaign to encourage early in-person voting.

But one must still be a citizen to vote in federal elections, and the path to citizenship for immigrants requires demonstrating English language proficiency.

In the vast majority of cases, legal permanent residents who apply for U.S. citizenship must pass English and civics requirements. Sure, we can reach out, inviting them into our “big tent,” but the onus is on them to learn our de facto language, what author Bill Bryson described as our Mother Tongue, to be eligible to vote.

There is a limited exception for the English proficiency part of the naturalization test. Specifically, per the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

An applicant is exempt from the English language requirement but is still required to meet the civics requirement if:

  • The applicant is age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as an LPR [legal permanent resident] in the United States for at least 20 years; or
  • The applicant is age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and has lived as an LPR in the United States for at least 15 years.

It must be a very “special” person who can live here for over 15-20 years without becoming somewhat English language proficient (even for younger immigrants weaned in Weingarten’s atrocious public schools). One naturally wonders how such a slow learner can be competent to vote in a republic that thrives with an informed citizenry. Nevertheless, the narrow exemptions make it clear that for the vast majority of citizenship applicants, English language proficiency is requisite. 

Permanent residents, having proved they’re self-sufficient and not a burden to taxpayers, and proven themselves to be of good moral character, among other requirements, may be eligible to apply for citizenship. Once attained, they will be sworn in — in English. After this joyful, life-altering ceremony, they will be welling up with pride and eager to not only vote but perhaps even volunteer civically. All using the same language as on their test — their adopted nation’s Mother Tongue.

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act introduces some confusion by requiring some states and local governments, based on convoluted census data, to disseminate multilingual election materials to limited-English-proficient (LEP) voters.

In the “states and political subdivision” section of US code 52 USC 10503, covering bilingual voting material requirements, each of the enumerated clauses contains the word “citizens.” It’s reasonable to presume that many of them had to demonstrate English proficiency when taking the citizenship test. Indeed, according to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population’s median age in 2020 was 30, which is well below the exemption threshold for the English proficiency part of the test (should they decide they want to be eligible to vote).

Therefore, while it doesn’t have to be a “day one issue” for the next Republican president and Congress, addressing the provisions of section 203 that are a disincentive to learning English would facilitate MAGA. Interestingly, a recent Univision poll shows former President Trump is gaining among Hispanic voters, especially those who are English-speaking.

As Pew Research indicates, “In 2019, the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 72% of all Latinos ages 5 and older indicated they spoke English proficiently, up from 59% in 1980.” Still, that leaves a large 28% with impediments to full assimilation, which may contribute to the following two-tiered system in which “separate is not equal.”

Those who learn to speak English are propelled toward the American Dream, while those who are mollycoddled are destined to lurch on the periphery of society. Rather than being adroit at filtering misinformation, LEP citizens are more susceptible to the whims of political pandering. Many are destined to a life of government dependence and destitution.

Unfortunately, while many younger Latinos are adopting English over Spanish, they are often shamed by other Hispanics.

Venezuelans represent our fastest-growing Hispanic population, and they are much less likely to speak only English compared to other Latinos. Currently, there are a bunch more of them riding atop trains while brazenly waving Venezuelan flags as they head for our porous southern border. Since they’re fleeing the poorest country in South America, you’d think they’d be more humble, substituting their yellow-blue-red flag for the Red, White, and Blue.

Perhaps their hubris is indicative of their reluctance in adopting the English language, even as they seek a better life under Old Glory. Some even had the gall to plant a Venezuelan flag on a Texas island. Interestingly, Venezuelan immigrants have the lowest rates of citizenship among U.S. Hispanics (admittedly, they are the most likely to have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or less).

Our Republic’s longest-surviving motto is E Pluribus Unum. Perhaps nothing can foster “out of many, one” more assuredly than by promoting a common language, national symbols, and a monolingual electoral system. Besides, learning their new nation’s Mother Tongue is not only commendable but essential to thrive. Fortunately, it can also be quite entertaining.

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