Amnesty: A Government Mandate for Multilingual Services

Amnesty: A Government Mandate for Multilingual Services

Amnesty, or granting legal status to individuals residing in the U.S. illegally ahead of those waiting for legal residency and citizenship, would further contribute to linguistic isolation in the U.S by increasing the incidence of limited English proficiency (LEP).  Illegal immigration is leading to an ever-increasing LEP trend which weakens national unity and results in decreased levels of educational and economic success.

The United States is experiencing a record wave of non-English speaking immigration, with over 1 million legal immigrants [1] plus the approximately 700,000-800,000 [2] illegal immigrants settling in the U.S. each year.  There are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens currently present in the U.S. today.

ProEnglish opposes any amnesty, such as Sen. Durbin’s (D-IL) DREAM Act (S. 729), that does not require specific steps for amnestied persons to first become English proficient. Removing incentives for immigrants and native-born non-English speakers to learn English and instead increasing taxpayer-funded, government-mandated multilingual services for the over-300 languages currently spoken in the U.S. is bad public policy.

Amnesty without specific steps to learn and test fluent in English:


  • Imposes a heavy financial burden.  Granting amnesty will dramatically increase the already-costly demands for multilingual services, including multilingual voting ballots, driver’s license tests, translations for official documents, forms, and school textbooks, and government-mandated interpreters for court hearings and government-funded health care programs. The burden should not fall on American citizens to pay for immigrants to avoid learning English.
  • Fosters linguistic isolation. Amnesties that lack specific language-learning requirements and a test weaken a critically needed cohesion for a nation as diverse, multiracial and multiethnic as America. Millions of English learners have participated in public elementary and secondary education in the U.S. without acquiring proficiency in English.59% of U.S. elementary school children who are LEP were born in the U.S. to immigrant parents [3].
    • English proficiency is becoming less common for high-school graduates in the United States.
      • In December 2010, over 10,000 New Jersey high school seniors had to take the so-called Alternative High School Assessment test.  Two-thirds of the state’s English Language Learners rely on the alternative assessment to meet state graduation standards.  Although the traditional High School Proficiency Assessment is an English-only test, students are allowed to take it in their native language, and the school district hires interpreters who translate the results into English. [4] (Footnote here) 
      • In May 2011, the New London, CT board of education approved a major change to the city’s education policy.  Students, including those immigrants from 28 different countries, will have to pass English to graduate and they will have to prove that they know the American English language and be able to demonstrate it as of 2015 [5].  The school district website is currently translated into 52 different languages and only 16 percent of 10th graders tested at the highest levels.
  • Cripples upward mobility of non-English-speaking and LEP immigrants.   All immigrants should understand that learning English is essential to their hope of pursuing the American dream and that learning English enables them to improve their skills and earning power.  Just like earlier immigrants, they have a responsibility to learn our nation’s language and assimilate. Lacking fluency in English traps amnesty recipients in low-skilled, low-wage jobs and heavily reliant on taxpayer-funded government programs.

o  The median income for English learner households in the U.S. was $25,604 in 1999, or about 60% of the $42,000 median household income for the rest of the population.

o  The number of English learner families living in poverty, at 26.3%, was more than twice the rate nationally.

o  An August Rasmussen survey found that 83% of likely voters felt that teaching immigrants English should be a higher priority rather than encouraging immigrants to retain their native culture.


ProEnglish opposes the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Aliens Minors Act) which would legalize approximately 2 million illegal aliens under the age of 35 who attended a U.S. high school, earned a high school diploma or GED, and agrees to serve in the military or attend college for at least two years.

  • Meant to help illegal alien children who were brought to the United States unknowingly by their parents, but once they receive their amnesty, they can immediately turn around and sponsor their parents for legal status under the current Chain Migration law.
  • The Amnesty provides no enforcement provisions and no end date or cap thereby encouraging future illegal immigration. It also provides no English language requirement.

[1] Source: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, 2008 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Table 1.

[2] Source: Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) report on estimates of the illegal alien population in the United States, 2003.

[3] The Value of English Proficiency to the United States Economy.  The Lexington Institute. Don Soifer, April 2009.

[4] N.J. high school seniors struggle with alternative graduation test., March 28, 2011.

[5] New London Graduation Requirement: Speak, May 16, 2011.