The English Plus Alternative
This "Statement of Purpose" is the founding document of the English Plus Information Clearinghouse (EPIC), a coalition of more than fifty civil rights and educational organizations opposed to Official English. EPIC was established in 1987 under the auspices of the National Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Forum and the Joint National Committee for Languages.<1>
The core of the strength and vitality of the United States is the diversity of our people and our constitutional commitment to equal protection under the law. Now, more than ever, our commitment to cultural and democratic pluralism is essential to enhance our competitiveness and position of international leadership. In an interdependent world, the diversity of our people provides a unique reservoir of understanding and talent. In order to sustain and strengthen these values and the national interest, the undersigned organizations have come together to address more effectively the role of language in the national and international community. ...
The English Plus concept holds that the national interest can best be served when all members of our society have full access to effective opportunities to acquire strong English language proficiency plus mastery of a second or multiple languages. ... English Plus rejects the ideology and divisive character of the so-called English Only movement. English Plus holds that national unity and our constitutional values require that language assistance be made available in order to ensure equal access to essential services, education, the electoral process, and other rights and opportunities guaranteed to all members of society. ...
In establishing EPIC, the founding member organizations have agreed to the following resolution:
WHEREAS English is and will remain the primary language of the United States, and all members of our society recognize the importance of English to national life, individual accomplishment, and personal enrichment; and
WHEREAS many U.S. citizens have native languages other than English, including many languages indigenous to this continent, and many members of our society have not had an equal opportunity to learn English; and
WHEREAS the ability to communicate in English and other languages has promoted and can further enhance American economic, political, and cultural vitality, and contributes to our nation's productivity, worldwide competitiveness, successful international diplomacy, and national security; and
WHEREAS our fundamental values and national documents ensure tolerance and respect for diversity and guarantee all persons equal protection under the law; and
WHEREAS English Only and other restrictionist language legislation have the potential for abridging the citizen's right to vote, eroding other civil rights, fostering governmental interference in private activity and free commerce, and causing social disunity; and
WHEREAS the organizations establishing the English Plus Information Clearinghouse are committed to the principles of democratic and cultural pluralism and encourage respect for the cultural and linguistic heritages of all members of our society;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. There is a need for a vastly expanded network of facilities for comprehensive English language instruction and services to ensure all persons the ability to exercise the rights and responsibilities of full participation in society.
2. There is a need to foster multiple language skills among all of our people in order to promote our position in the world marketplace and to strengthen the conduct of foreign relations.
3. There is a need to encourage the retention and development of a person's first language, to build upon the multiple language skills of all members of our society, and to strengthen our commitment to cultural and democratic pluralism.
4. There is a need to retain and strengthen the full range of language assistance policies and programs, including bilingual assistance, in order to ensure all members of society an equal opportunity to exercise their rights and responsibilities in regard to the electoral process, education, the legal system, social services, and health care.
5. There is a need to reject the objectives and premises of English Only and promote the concept of English Plus in order to promote public civility and the fundamental values and objectives of our society.
6. There is a need to defeat any legislative initiative on the federal, state, or local level which would mandate English as the official language and thereby restrict the civil rights, civil liberties, or equal opportunities of all persons, including persons with limited English proficiency.
7. There is a need for an English Plus Information Clearinghouse to facilitate and enhance: the exchange of information, public education, advocacy, effective policies and programs, and cooperation among a wide range of communities, private organizations, and public sector entities.
1. The founding endorsers of EPIC were: the American
Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress,
Caribbean Education and Legal Defense Fund, Center for Applied Linguistics,
Chinese for Affirmative Action, Coloradans for Language Freedom, Committee
for a Multilingual New York, Conference on College Composition and Communication,
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), El Concilio de El Paso, Haitian
American Anti-Defamation League, Haitian Refugee Center, Image de Denver,
IRATE (Coalition of Massachusetts Trade Unions), Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund, Michigan English Plus Coalition, META (Multicultural
Education, Training, and Advocacy) Inc., National Association for Bilingual
Education, National Coalition of Advocates for Students, National Council
of La Raza, National Puerto Rican Coalition, New York Association for New
Americans, Organization of Chinese Americans, Spanish-Speaking/Surnamed
Political Association, Stop English Only Committee of Hostos Community
College, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.