H. R. 123
To amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English
as the official language of the Government of the United States.
As passed by the House of Representatives, August 1, 1996
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
SEC. 102. ENGLISH AS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF FEDERAL
(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
``161. Declaration of official language of Federal Government
``162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official
``163. Official Federal Government activities in English
``165. Reform of naturalization requirements
``167. Rule of construction
``168. Affirmation of constitutional protections
``Sec. 161. Declaration of official language of Federal
``The official language of the Federal Government is English.
``Sec. 162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the
``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
``Sec. 163. Official Federal Government activities
``(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
``(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
``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
``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
``(2) to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan
or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American Languages
``(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
``(A) teaching of languages;
``(B) requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities
``(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
``(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
``(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
``6. Language of the Federal Government.....................
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.
(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
(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'';
(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''.