H. R. 123

Bill Emerson English Language Empowerment Act of 1996 (Passed by the House)

104th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 123
AN ACT
To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States.

HR 123 EH

104th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 123


AN ACT
To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States.

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 `Bill Emerson English Language Empowerment Act of 1996′.

TITLE I–ENGLISH LANGUAGE EMPOWERMENT
SEC. 101. FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds and declares the following:
      (1) The United States is comprised of individuals and groups from diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds.
      (2) The United States has benefited and continutes to benefit from this rich diversity.
      (3) Throughout the history of the United States, the common thread binding individuals of differing backgrounds has been a common language.
      (4) In order to preserve unity in diversity, and to prevent division along linguistic lines, the Federal Government should maintain a language common to all people.
      (5) English has historically been the common language and the language of opportunity in the United States.
      (6) The purpose of this title is to help immigrants better assimilate and take full advantage of economic and occupational opportunities in the United States.
      (7) By learning the English language, immigrants will be empowered with the language skills and literacy necessary to become responsible citizens and productive workers in the United States.
      (8) The use of a single common language in conducting official businesss of the Federal Government will promote efficiency and fairness to all people.
      (9) English should be recognized in law as the language of official business of the Federal Government.
      (10) Any monetary savings derived from the enactment of this title should be used for the teaching of the English language to non-English speaking immigrants.

SEC. 102. ENGLISH AS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

    (a) IN GENERAL- Title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new chapter:

`CHAPTER 6–LANGUAGE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

`Sec.

      `161. Declaration of official language of Federal Government
      `162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language
      `163. Official Federal Government activities in English
      `164. Standing
      `165. Reform of naturalization requirements
      `166. Application
      `167. Rule of construction
      `168. Affirmation of constitutional protections
      `169. Definitions

`Sec. 161. Declaration of official language of Federal Government

    `The official language of the Federal Government 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 English language.

`Sec. 163. Official Federal Government activities in English

    `(a) CONDUCT OF BUSINESS- Representatives of the Federal Government shall conduct its official business in English.
    `(b) DENIAL OF SERVICES- No person shall be denied services, assistance, or facilities, directly or indirectly provided by the Federal Government solely because the person communicates in English.
    `(c) ENTITLEMENT- Every person in the United States is entitled–
      `(1) to communicate with representatives of the Federal Government in English;
      `(2) to receive information from or contribute information to the Federal Government in English; and
      `(3) to be informed of or be subject to official orders in English.

`Sec. 164. 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 appropriate relief.

`Sec. 165. Reform of naturalization requirements

    `(a) FLUENCY- It has been the longstanding national belief that full citizenship in the United States requires fluency in English. English is the language of opportunity for all immigrants to take their rightful place in society in the United States.
    `(b) CEREMONIES- All authorized officials shall conduct all naturalization ceremonies entirely in English.

`Sec. 166. Application

    `Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the provisions of this chapter shall supersede any existing Federal law that contravenes such provisions (such as by requiring the use of a language other than English for official business of the Federal Government).

`Sec. 167. Rule of construction

    `Nothing in this chapter shall be construed–
      `(1) to prohibit a Member of Congress or an employee or official of the Federal Government, while performing official business, from communicating orally with another person in a language other than English;
      `(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American Languages Act);
      `(3) to discriminate against or restrict the rights of any individual in the country; and
      `(4) to discourage or prevent the use of languages other than English in any nonofficial capacity.

`Sec. 168. Affirmation of constitutional protections

    `Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.

`Sec. 169. Definitions

    `For purposes of this chapter:
      `(1) FEDERAL GOVERNMENT- The term `Federal Government’ means all branches of the national Government and all employees and officials of the national Government while performing official business.
      `(2) OFFICIAL BUSINESS- The term `official business’ means governmental actions, documents, or policies which are enforceable with the full weight and authority of the Federal Government, and includes publications, income tax forms, and informational materials, but does not include–
        `(A) teaching of languages;
        `(B) requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
        `(C) actions, documents, or policies necessary for–
          `(i) national security issues; or
          `(ii) international relations, trade, or commerce;
        `(D) actions or documents that protect the public health and safety;
        `(E) actions or documents that facilitate the activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any census of population;
        `(F) actions, documents, or policies that are not enforceable in the United States;
        `(G) actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants;
        `(H) actions in which the United States has initiated a civil lawsuit; or
        `(I) using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.
      `(3) UNITED STATES- The term `United States’ means the several States and the District of Columbia.’.
    (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- The table of chapters for title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

161′.

SEC. 103. PREEMPTION.

    This title (and the amendments made by this title) shall not preempt any law of any State.

SEC. 104. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    The amendments made by section 102 shall take effect on the date that is 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

TITLE II–REPEAL OF BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS
SEC. 201. REPEAL OF BILINGUAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS

    (a) BILINGUAL ELECTION REQUIREMENTS- Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a) is repealed.
    (b) VOTING RIGHTS- Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973b) is amended by striking subsection (f).

SEC. 202. CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.

    (a) REFERENCES TO SECTION 203- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended–
      (1) in section 204, by striking `or 203,’; and
      (2) in section 205, by striking `, 202, or 203′ and inserting `or 202′.
    (b) REFERENCES TO SECTION 4- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1973 et seq.) is amended–
      (1) in sections 2(a), 3(a), 3(b), 3(c), 4(d), 5, 6, and 13, by striking `, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 4(f)(2)’;
      (2) in paragraphs (1)(A) and (3) of section 4(a), by striking `or (in the case of a State or subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) in contravention of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2)’;
      (3) in paragraph (1)(B) of section 4(a), by striking `or (in the case of a State or subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) that denials or abridgements of the right to vote in contravention of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred anywhere in the territory of such State or subdivision’; and
      (4) in paragraph (5) of section 4(a), by striking `or (in the case of a State or subdivision which sought a declaratory judgment under the second sentence of this subsection) that denials or abridgements of the right to vote in contravention of the guarantees of subsection (f)(2) have occurred anywhere in the territory of such State or subdivision’.

Passed the House of Representatives August 1, 1996.

Attest:

Clerk.

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