English language bill means well but has flaws | NevadaAppeal.com

English language bill means well but has flaws

English language bill means well but has flaws

It was unfortunate that opponents of a bill to make English the official language of Nevada resorted to calling its sponsor, Sen. Bob Beers, a racist. SB325 should be examined on its merits, rather than on emotion and epithets.

The charge of racism threw a blanket over meaningful discussion of changes that are at the heart of Nevada’s future. Part of that discussion requires an acknowledgment that Nevada’s Hispanic population is growing rapidly, and that it is now an important part of our culture and our economy. No matter what kind of legislation is passed, on the state or federal basis, that will remain the case.

Our lawmakers should be focused on building bridges between the cultures that are now linked in creating Nevada’s future.

The question is whether SB325 builds bridges or makes the chasm between them deeper. The bill would not prohibit people from communicating in Spanish, but it would require state proceedings to be conducted in English and would mean that public records would have to be made available in English only.

That makes sense from the standpoint that making state government information and records accessible to non-English speakers could be a gargantuan task. Even if it were accomplished for Spanish speakers, would we then have to do the same for all other languages?

But the bill lacks practicality in other places. For example, how would we benefit by not allowing drivers to fully understand our regulations before they take the driver’s test? While immigrants should learn English, it would likely take them a great deal of time to master it well enough to read the manual. That would probably result in more unlicensed drivers, making roads less safe.

The intent of the bill is sound in that it acknowledges that immigrants should learn English as a prerequisite of becoming a part of this country. But the bridge SB325 builds comes up short. And, absent from the discussion was a critical piece of information – what is the problem the bill is intended to fix? In other words, how much are we spending now on making our government accessible to non-English speakers?

The Hispanic community should be building a bridge of its own by also acknowledging that immigrants must learn English, and perhaps even beginning non-governmental community programs to make that happen. It would go far to calm the fears behind SB 325 and send a message that Hispanic immigrants are here to become a part of our country, not to change it.