English Only Update III
English First Founder
Linked to White Supremacists
By James Crawford
February 16, 1996
Critics of the English-only movement who have long suspected
a "Nazi connection" may finally have found one in the person
of Larry Pratt, cochairman of the Pat Buchanan presidential campaign. Until
yesterday Pratt was an obscure third-stringer for the New Right. Today
his face is on front pages across the country, thanks to his inopportune
appearances with leaders of white supremacist organizations, including
Aryan Nations and Christian Identity. Pratt reportedly addressed meetings
sponsored by these groups to organize and promote armed militias. Interviewed
on ABC's "Nightline," he claimed not to have known about the
Nazi sympathies of his fellow speakers, even though one identified himself
as "a 100 percent bigot" and used Hitler's favorite salute.
Press accounts have identified Larry Pratt as the director
of Gun Owners of America (GOA). But they have neglected to note that he
is also the president of English First, a group he founded in 1986 to combat
bilingualism and advocate English as the nation's official language. English
First and GOA currently share a suite of offices in Springfield, Va., along
with other Pratt-created lobbies, including the Committee to Protect the
Family and U.S. Border Control.
In the 104th Congress, English First has worked closely
with Reps. Toby Roth (R-Wisc.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.) in drafting federal
English-only legislation. These bills – H.R. 739
and H.R. 1005, respectively – are the most explicit
and restrictive "Language of Government Acts" now pending. Both
would repeal the Bilingual Education Act and the bilingual provisions of
the Voting Rights Act. English First has also been a major benefactor of
Learning English Advocates Drive (LEAD), a group of anti-bilingual teachers
in Los Angeles, headed by Sally Peterson.
English First also seems to have influenced Pat Buchanan.
Although Larry Pratt is now "on leave" from the campaign, his
spirit of intolerance persists. In Arizona, Buchanan has been running TV
commercials promising "to insist on one language, English, for all
Pratt's group is not to be confused with the older and
better- funded U.S. English lobby. The two organizations compete for direct-mail
dollars and have never been on friendly terms.
English First has never hesitated to associate itself
with Far Right causes or to offend ethnic minorities with its innuendo-
laden rhetoric. In 1986, English First began raising funds with the following
appeal, signed by Texas state Rep. Jim Horn:
Dear Fellow American:
I don't know about your forefathers but when mine
came to America, the first thing they did was learn English.
They wanted to be part of the American dream and
they knew that learning English wasn't just a practical necessity. It was
a moral obligation.
Tragically, many immigrants these days refuse to
learn English! They never become productive members of society. They remain
stuck in a linguistic and economic ghetto, many living off welfare and
costing working Americans millions of tax dollars every year.
Incredibly, there is a radical movement in this
country that not only promotes such irresponsible behavior, but actually
wants to give foreign languages the same status as English -- the so-called
'bilingual' movement. ...
Right now, Hispanic and other groups calling for
segregated language programs have won every legal battle. So instead of
treating an immigrant's native language as an impediment to success in
America, the states are forced to treat it as a God-given right. ...
Radical activists have been caught sneaking illegal
aliens to the polls and using bilingual ballots to cast fraudulent votes.
If you and I fail to pass the [English Language]
Amendment now, the fragmentation of American society along language lines
will be complete. We'll create a permanent underclass of unemployable citizens.
And you and your children will have to pick up the tab. ...
The English language has always been the cement
holding us together. But if we lose that now, our way of life will be forever
Using this pitch, Larry Pratt proudly claimed to have
recruited 200,000 members and raised $2 million for English First in a
single year. When the letter was later criticized in the press, however,
he rewrote it and alleged that it had been misquoted.
I interviewed Pratt for Education Week back
in 1987 and asked him about the charges of racism leveled against English-only
proponents. He dismissed these as "strictly irrational paranoia"
on the part of Hispanic leaders who "oppose their communities learning
English [so as] to keep their political base." He added that his Panamanian-born
wife fully approved of the activities of English First.
The "true racists," Pratt insisted, were those
who reject English as the common U.S. language in favor of "linguistic
separatism." He questioned the patriotism of many Hispanic advocates
of bilingual programs, warning that they secretly hope to reunite the Southwest
Funny. In more than a decade of reporting on bilingual
education, I have never encountered a single linguistic separatist – much
less a Hispanic secessionist. Maybe it takes a true racial conspirator
to see racial conspiracies everywhere.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the Hispanic
Link Weekly Report, March 4, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by James
Crawford. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article for free,
noncommercial distribution, provided that credit is given and this notice
is included. Requests for permission to reproduce in any other form should
be forwarded by email.