SOURCE: U.S.English

U.S.English

April 26, 2013 15:28 ET

U.S.English Condemns Labor Department Ruling on Florida English Language Requirements

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Apr 26, 2013) - U.S.English Chairman Mauro E. Mujica today expressed criticism of a U.S. Labor Department directive that will change the way the state of Florida handles unemployment benefit applications for speakers of languages other than English.

Currently, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity requires that unemployment insurance applications are submitted online and in English. The Labor Department's Civil Rights Center claims these requirements violate applicants' civil rights, and directs the state agency to make access to unemployment benefits easier for non-English proficient individuals.

"As an immigrant myself, I know that proficiency in English is the greatest tool a newcomer to the United States can acquire," Chairman Mujica said. "Florida's current requirement that unemployment benefit applications be submitted in English is simply an added incentive for non-English speaking residents to learn the common language of the state and the nation. Furthermore, limiting applications to one common language ensures fair access to everyone. By opening up the door to foreign languages, the state will need to determine which of the 162 languages spoken in Florida will be offered on applications -- a process that will isolate speakers of less widely used foreign languages."

In 1988, the Florida State Constitution was amended to declare English the state's official language, giving the Legislature the power to enforce the declaration with appropriate legislation. The federal government currently has no such policy.

"Learning English leads to a better, higher paying job, as well as the ability to function without language barriers in daily life in the United States. Rather than making it easier for individuals to access benefits in their native languages, the federal government would be better off supporting Florida's current process of encouraging these individuals to learn English," Mujica added.

According to the Census Bureau, Florida ranks 7th highest in the nation due to its 11.9 percent of limited English proficient residents, who would likely struggle carrying on more than a basic conversation in English.

U.S.English, Inc. is the nation's oldest and largest non-partisan citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States. Founded in 1983 by the late Sen. S.I. Hayakawa of California, U.S.English, Inc. (www.usenglish.org) now has more than 1.8 million members.

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    KARIN DAVENPORT
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