1st Session

H. R. 123

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


January 4, 1995

Mr. Emerson (for himself, Mr. Barr, Mr. Wamp, Mr. Dornan, Mr. Hansen, Mr. Gutknecht, Mr. Burton of Indiana, Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Kingston, Mr. Stump, Mr. Ehlers, Mr. Bunning of Kentucky, Mr. Calvert, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Archer, Mr. Dickey, Mr. Ramstad, Mr. Livingston, Mr. Bevill, Mr. Fawell, Mr. Clinger, Mr. King, Mr. Canady, Mr. Porter, Mr. Linder, Mr. Regula, Mr. Packard, Mr. Hutchinson, Mrs. Meyers of Kansas, Mr. Barrett of Nebraska, Mr. Knollenberg, Mr. Talent, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Solomon, Mr. Petri, Mr. Ballenger, Mr. Bachus, and Mrs. Fowler) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities


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,


(a) Findings.--The Congress finds and declares that--

    (1) the United States is comprised of individuals and groups from diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds;

    (2) the United States has benefited and continues to benefit from this rich diversity;

    (3) throughout the history of the Nation, the common thread binding those of differing backgrounds has been a common language;

    (4) in order to preserve unity in diversity, and to prevent division along linguistic lines, the United States 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 Act 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 the conduct of the Government's official business will promote efficiency and fairness to all people;

    (9) English should be recognized in law as the language of official business of the Government; and

    (10) any monetary savings derived from the enactment of this Act should be used for the teaching of non-English speaking immigrants the English language.

(b) Construction.--The amendments made by section 3--

    (1) are not intended in any way to discriminate against or restrict the rights of any individual in the United States;

    (2) are not intended to discourage or prevent the use of languages other than English in any nonofficial capacity; and

    (3) except where an existing law of the United States directly contravenes the amendments made by section 3 (such as by requiring the use of a language other than English for official business of the Government of the United States), are not intended to repeal existing laws of the United States.


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



    ``161. Declaration of official language of Government.

    ``162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language.

    ``163. Official Government activities in English.

    ``164. Standing.

    ``165. Definitions.

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

``The official language of the Government of the United States is English.

``Sec. 162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language

``The Government shall have an affirmative obligation to preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States Government. Such obligation shall include encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the English language.

``Sec. 163. Official Government activities in English

``(a) Conduct of Business.--The 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 Government solely because the person communicates in English.

``(c) Entitlement.--Every person in the United States is entitled to--

    ``(1) communicate with the Government in English;

    ``(2) receive information from or contribute information to the Government in English; and

    ``(3) be informed of or be subject to official orders in English.

``Sec. 164. Standing

``Any person alleging injury arising from a violation of this chapter shall have standing to sue in the courts of the United States under sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code, and for such other relief as may be considered appropriate by the courts.

``Sec. 165. Definitions

``For purposes of this chapter:

``(1) Government.--The term `Government' means all branches of the Government of the United States and all employees and officials of the Government of the United States while performing official business.

``(2) Official business.--The term `official business' means those governmental actions, documents, or policies which are enforceable with the full weight and authority of the Government, but does not include--

    ``(A) teaching of foreign languages;

    ``(B) actions, documents, or policies that are not enforceable in the United States;

    ``(C) actions, documents, or policies necessary for international relations, trade, or commerce;

    ``(D) actions or documents that protect the public health;

    ``(E) actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants; and

    ``(F) documents that utilize terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.''.

(b) Conforming Amendment.--The table of chapters for title 4, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``6. Language of the Government............................. 161''.


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


The amendments made by section 3 shall take effect upon the date of enactment of this Act, except that no suit may be commenced to enforce or determine rights under the amendments until January 1, 1996.