The English Only movement has frequently been cited as a xenophobic effort to make life more difficult for immigrants. The movement has been directed at Asians, Hispanics and Germans at various times. Many states continue to pass laws attempting to make English the only valid language in the United States. Courts continue to overturn most of these laws as unconstitutional.
English Language Movement
The English Language Movement is not a new one. We commonly think of the movement as being directed towards Latinos or Hispanics, but this is not the case. For example, Nebraska's 1920 constitutional amendment declaring English the official state language grew out of anti-German sentiment1. The movement does seem to be consistently directed against immigrants, however The state of Arizona has attempted on several occasions to pass laws making the state an English only state. One of them states “English is the official language of the State of Arizona and that the state and its political subdivisions — including ‘all governmental officials and employees during the performance of government business’ — must “act” only in English2. Although this law was eventually overturned by the Ninth Circuit court, which held that “the law, as written, is overbroad and violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution” similar laws continue to be passed. For example, following an initiative in 1986, a provision incorporated into California's constitution established English as the official state language and declared that the legislature "shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of English as the common language of the State of California.3 According to the American Psychological Association, ”the leadership of the English-only movement promotes racist and anti-immigration sentiments and that most likely these elements motivate, at least in part, supporters of English-only initiatives.4”
The English only...