Known for his hard-line stance on immigration, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, resurfaced Wednesday the debate over whether English should be the official language of the United States.
King announced that a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Official English Act, legislation that King has championed since 2003 when he was sworn into Congress, will be held next week.
"The Judiciary Committee hearing next week reflects the need to get a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on this popular issue- 87 percent of Americans say that English should be the official language of the United States," King said in a press release.
The Official English Act, H.R. 997, would make English the official language of the United States – something that the U.S. currently does not have – requires the federal government to encourage individuals to learn English, requires all functions of the government be conducted in English and establishes a language requirement for people to become naturalized citizens.
"A common language is the most powerful source of unifying force for any nation,” King said. “Over the course of history, common languages have created cohesive cultures and have helped prevent division.”
English as the country’s official language has been a hotly debated issue since the 1980s and has come up during many of the last presidential elections. King and other supporters of the claim that an official language would advance political unity based on linguistic commonality, while critics argue it is a ploy based on people’s irrational fear of immigrants.
A common language is the most powerful source of unifying force for any nation...Over the course of history, common languages have created cohesive cultures and have helped prevent division.
- Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
“’English Only’ laws, which declare English to be the country's official language and bar government employees from providing non-English language assistance and services, are inconsistent with both the First Amendment right to communicate with or petition the government, and the right to equality,” wrote the American Civil Liberties Union. “They are also unnecessary and sometimes even dangerous to both individuals and the public.”
King – who is running for reelection against Democrat Christine Vilsack – previously enacted legislation that established English as Iowa's official language when he was a member of Iowa's Senate
As the vice chairman of the House immigration subcommittee, recently made waves again when he drew parallels between attracting the best from around the world to emigrate here, and picking the best dog of a litter. His critics said King was again showing what they say are his denigrating views of immigrants.
“In my house, we have raised really good, high-quality Labrador Pointers, we’ve received the pick of the litter from all over the planet. You pick the vigor, the most perky. It was the utilization of the pick of the litter. What is the pick – the alert, the frisky, that’s the one you want,” King said during an interview with Fox News Latino. “If someone is insulted by that, I don’t know that they belong in this country.”
The Judiciary Committee hearing will take place next Thursday and is a continued effort on the part of King to get this legislation passed.
“I've introduced the Official English Act every session I've been in Congress because I know that an official language will keep this nation bound together and I look forward to next week's hearing,” King said. “ Now we need to get Official English passed into law.”