111th Congress (2009-2010)
February 11, 2009
Mr. KING of Iowa (for himself, Mrs. BACHMANN, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Mr. LUETKEMEYER, Mr. BURGESS, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. COBLE, Mr. CULBERSON, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. DREIER, Mr. DUNCAN, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. BROWN of South Carolina, Mr. HERGER, Mr. INGLIS, Mr. JONES, Mr. MCCAUL, Mr. MCHENRY, Mr. PAUL, Mr. ROE of Tennessee, Mr. ROGERS of Alabama, Mr. TIBERI, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. GRAVES, Mr. BILIRAKIS, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. SIMPSON, Mr. MCHUGH, Mr. PLATTS, Mr. HOEKSTRA, Mr. SULLIVAN, Mr. BILBRAY, Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky, Mr. ROGERS of Michigan, Mr. WOLF, Mr. FLEMING, Mr. SMITH of Nebraska, Mr. SHUSTER, Ms. FOXX, Mr. POE of Texas, Mr. LUCAS, Mr. BARTLETT, Mr. WHITFIELD, Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr. MARCHANT, Mrs. LUMMIS, Mr. WITTMAN, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. LATOURETTE, Mr. AKIN, Mr. HUNTER, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Ms. FALLIN, Mr. WAMP, Mr. PITTS, Mrs. SCHMIDT, Mr. WESTMORELAND, and Mr. MCCLINTOCK) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
- Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
- This Act may be cited as the `English Language Unity Act of 2009'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
- The Congress finds and declares the following:
- (1) The United States is comprised of individuals from
diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and continues to
benefit from this rich diversity.
- (2) Throughout the history of the United States, the
common thread binding individuals of differing backgrounds has been the
- (3) Among the powers reserved to the States
respectively is the power to establish the English language as the
official language of the respective States, and otherwise to promote the
English language within the respective States, subject to the
prohibitions enumerated in the Constitution of the United States and in
laws of the respective States.
- (a) In General- Title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new chapter:
Sec. 161. Official language of the United States
The official language of the United States is English.
Sec. 162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language
Representatives of the Federal Government shall have an
affirmative obligation to preserve and enhance the role of English as
the official language of the Federal Government. Such obligation shall
include encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the
(a) Official Functions- The official functions of the Government of the United States shall be conducted in English.
(b) Scope- For the purposes of this section, the term `United States' means the several States and the District of Columbia, and the term `official' refers to any function that (i) binds the Government, (ii) is required by law, or (iii) is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public.
(c) Practical Effect- This section shall apply to all laws, public proceedings, regulations, publications, orders, actions, programs, and policies, but does not apply to--
(1) teaching of languages;
(2) requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
(3) actions, documents, or policies necessary for national security, international relations, trade, tourism, or commerce;
(4) actions or documents that protect the public health and safety;
(5) actions or documents that facilitate the activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any census of population;
(6) actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants; or
(7) using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.
Sec. 164. Uniform English language rule for naturalization
(a) Uniform Language Testing Standard- All citizens should
be able to read and understand generally the English language text of
the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the
United States made in pursuance of the Constitution.
(b) Ceremonies- All naturalization ceremonies shall be conducted in English.
Sec. 165. Rules of construction
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed--
- (1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or any officer or
agent of the Federal Government, while performing official functions,
from communicating unofficially through any medium with another person
in a language other than English (as long as official functions are
performed in English);
- (2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan
or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American
- (3) to disparage any language or to discourage any person from learning or using a language; or
- (4) to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.
Sec. 166. Standing
A person injured by a violation of this chapter may in a
civil action (including an action under chapter 151 of title 28) obtain
- (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of chapters at the
beginning of title 4, United States Code, is amended by inserting after
the item relating to chapter 5 the following new item:
Chapter 6. Official Language.SEC. 4. GENERAL RULES OF CONSTRUCTION FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEXTS OF THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES.
- (a) In General- Chapter 1 of title 1, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
Sec. 9. General rules of construction for laws of the United States
(a) English language requirements and workplace policies,
whether in the public or private sector, shall be presumptively
consistent with the Laws of the United States; and
(b) Any ambiguity in the English language text of the Laws
of the United States shall be resolved, in accordance with the last two
articles of the Bill of Rights, not to deny or disparage rights
retained by the people, and to reserve powers to the States
respectively, or to the people.'.
- (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the
beginning of chapter 1 of title 1, is amended by inserting after the
item relating to section 8 the following new item:
- 9. General Rules of Construction for Laws of the United States.
SEC. 5. IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS.
- The Secretary of Homeland Security shall, within 180 days
after the date of enactment of this Act, issue for public notice and
comment a proposed rule for uniform testing English language ability of
candidates for naturalization, based upon the principles that--
- (1) all citizens should be able to read and understand
generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution, and the laws of the United States which are made in
pursuance thereof; and
- (2) any exceptions to this standard should be limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as asylum.
SEC. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.
The amendments made by sections 3 and 4 shall take effect
on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this