Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday announced his support for legislation that would make English the nation’s official language in order to combat what he calls “an unprecedented influx of non-English-speaking immigrants.”

The Georgia Republican, who is weighing a bid for his party’s 2008 presidential nomination, places third in most Republican polls behind Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Gingrich has said he is speaking out now to infuse his party’s presidential primary with ideas and will not make a formal decision about running until September.

“If you are pro-immigration into America, you should be pro-assimilation into the American way of life,” Mr. Gingrich said during a press conference in Washington yesterday. “Bilingual education has been stunningly destructive.”

Mr. Gingrich denied having an anti-immigration stance. “I am pro-immigration,” he said.

He also is for a bill to be introduced by Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, which would make English the official language. Mr. King’s bill amassed more than 150 co-sponsors last year but did not become law.

Mr. Gingrich said public pressure ultimately will force lawmakers pass the legislation, even in a Democrat-controlled Congress.

“You find a way to bring it to the floor of the House every two months,” he said. “And then those elites in government will be forced to answer, ‘Are you with 85 percent of the country or are you against 85 percent of the country?’ This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue.”

He said previous attempts to pass the legislation failed because of “timidity and [a] rejection of the people’s will.”

In May, the Senate voted 62-35 for an amendment to the immigration-reform bill that would make English the national language. Supporting it were nine Democrats and all Republicans who voted. Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, did not vote on the amendment.

A Rasmussen Reports survey taken shortly after the vote found that 85 percent of respondents support making English the official language, compared with 11 percent who do not favor the idea.

Mr. Gingrich has outlined a five-step assimilation plan that would: require greater proficiency in English before citizenship is granted, require new citizens to give up the right to vote in their native countries, require that federal documents be in English only, emphasize American history in citizenship courses, and create a program for immersion in English-language training.

“This is a cultural pattern,” he said of emphasizing American history and language skills to prospective citizens. “America is a state of mind; it’s a way of being.”

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