What to Expect in the New Congress

By Aloysius Hogan, Government Relations Director
January 7, 2011

     The swearing in of the new 112th Congress brings many opportunities for our mutual support of English.
     With control of the two chambers of the United States Congress now split, one common, bipartisan goal is emerging: increasing employment.
     Congress literally has begun asking employers, “Is there something that we can do to try to ease that [regulatory] burden and stimulate job creation? … Is there a pattern emerging? Is there a consistent practice or regulation that hurts jobs? Until you have all the facts, you really can't make a lot of determinations and judgments.”

The Harm of Foreign-Language-Translation Mandates

     Nobody has the facts about how foreign-languagetranslation mandates hurt both America’s employers, our government, Americans, and even immigrants like English First and our supporters do.

Opportunity

     Congress has pledged to probe these issues with a surfeit of hearings. Great opportunity presents itself to have our English-language cause included as a topic in hearings and even to have English First testify on behalf of English.
     As a group, let us take a proactive stance in the tradition of preventive strategies and positive solutions. Send us your experiences by phone, by fax, by email, or by letter. We will include these examples of any vexing problems or timeconsuming patterns you are encountering in our communications with Capitol Hill.
     To develop solutions and strategies, to connect with Representatives and Senators, to influence the Administration, to seek Congressional hearings on particular aspects of our topic, and to secure and produce testimony, please support English First with your communications and your donations.

Split in Power

     The split in power with the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and the Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House means that we face major battles on the English issue. Pro-English bills have a greater chance of being enacted in the new House of Representatives, thus forcing Senators to reveal their true positions on issues such as bilingual ballots and bilingual education.

Worry #1

     Worry #1 frankly is that even a well-meaning majority in the House of Representatives will allow small yet quite adverse provisions to be slipped into large bills of hundreds or thousands of pages. These large bills can and do pass frequently and can do great damage incrementally.
     Our difficult work is to seek and discover the problematic provisions promptly. Then we must secure our allies’ attention in Congress to say no and to put their foot down.

2012 Presidential Election

Another concern begins to rear its head right about now. The Presidential campaign for 2012 is receiving more attention, and candidates begin to position themselves.

The “Hispanic Vote” and “Hispanic Issues”

     Courting “the Hispanic vote” takes on a particular, peculiar emphasis. “Hispanics” are no more monolithic than “Whites”, yet the Presidential campaign advisers run their numerical projections and tell the candidates they need to support some “Hispanic” issues.
     Following such advice, some fore-thinking politicians tipped their hand that they would seek higher office when they supported statehood for Puerto Rico in the last Congress. Lamentably these politicians did so without an all-important guarantee that English would be the sole official language of Puerto Rico. No territory of the United States has ever been admitted as a state with a foreign language as its official language.
     Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno, Columnist George Will, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and President Ronald Reagan have all made the case that Hispanics/Latinos embrace conservative and Republican values. Demographic polling indicates that Hispanics are overwhelmingly

  1. supportive of lower taxes and smaller budgets and less red tape,
  2. naturally distrusting of government,
  3. pro-life,
  4. pro-family,
  5. religious (Catholic and Evangelical),
  6. repeatedly opposed to Puerto Rican statehood, and supportive of English—the language of opportunity.

      At the same time U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed in the latter part of 2010 that “I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK?” An aide stated Republican candidates oppose Hispanics by

  1. opposing federal deficit spending for state and local government union jobs (teachers),
  2. opposing liberal taxation schemes,
  3. opposing federal spending for projects that would produce high-cost energy,
  4. opposing federal deficit spending for unemployment benefits,
  5. wanting to restructure and save failing government programs like Social Security and Medicare.

     To date Hispanics/Latinos have voted predominantly Democratic in federal elections. From 1996 to date, Republicans have won between 21% and 44% of the Hispanic/ Latino vote. President George W. Bush garnered the peak 44% and serves as a model for many of the campaign advisors who follow in the footsteps and even learned from Bush’s advisor Karl Rove.

Hispanic population

     The estimated Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2009 is 48.4 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 16 percent of the nation's total population. In addition, there are approximately 4 million residents of Puerto Rico, a Caribbean U.S. territory.
     More than one of every two people added to the nation's population between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009, was Hispanic. There were 1.4 million Hispanics added to the population during the period. That 3.1% increase makes Hispanics the fastest-growing minority group.
     9.7 million Hispanic citizens reported voting in the 2008 presidential election, about 2 million more than voted in 2004. The percentage of Hispanic citizens voting–50%– represented a statistical increase from 2004 (47%).
     Still millions more Hispanics are expected to vote in the 2012 presidential election.
     While it has been posited that there is an interest in inflating such demographic numbers over and above reality so as to wield additional power, there can be no doubt the an increase has occurred in the Hispanic population.

Impact

     The real impact of the numbers above is measured in politicians’ actions. Perhaps more than the new political split in the two Houses of Congress, the presidential race will begin to influence and even characterize the next two years.
     The words and actions of presidential candidates have a two-fold import:
1. They seek to represent the parties as the presidential nominee, and
2. Most candidates have already established themselves as leading national figures and opinion-swayers.

Presidential Candidates could dominate the 112th Congress

     Numerous sitting Congressmen and Senators have aspirations for the next Presidency. These candidates will make extra efforts to be seen and heard. These candidates will extensively court followers and endorsements within the House and the Senate. These candidates will seize the opportunity to lead politically beneficial legislative initiatives and to steer as far away as possible from political land mines.
     For a real sense of how the 112th Congress will treat English language issues, keep your eyes on the presidential candidates. These presidential candidates will be the bellwethers, and they will need to hear from us how important English language issues are to the American voters!

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