- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

A key member of Congress says federal workers should be paid more for using their bilingual skills at work, and he’s introduced a bill to boost those folks’ pay by 5 percent.

Rep. Michael M. Honda, California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said those bilingual workers deserve to be rewarded for their extra skills - something the government doesn’t regularly do right now.

“I understand the difficulties that immigrants face communicating in English while they acquire fluency,” Mr. Honda said. “The bill addresses these challenges by promoting the use of bilingual skills throughout the federal work force in order to better serve the public and accomplish the mission of federal agencies.”

It’s unclear whether the bill will get any traction, particularly with Congress working on so many other issues, though it could pop up as part of a broader immigration debate.

Mr. Honda’s bill would boost a federal employee’s base pay by 5 percent if he or she is required to use languages other than English at work, but who get paid the same as other federal workers who hold similar jobs but do not have bilingual skills.

K.C. McAlpin, executive director of ProEnglish, said the bill amounts to taxpayers subsidizing multilingual government. He said polls repeatedly show Americans oppose that and instead want English to be the official language.

“At a time when the federal government has racked up a $12.5 trillion debt, Rep. Honda’s legislation has to rank as one of the most irresponsible bills ever introduced in Congress,” he said.

The number of people who speak a language other than English at home has jumped to 55 million, including many native-born Americans.

In prior immigration debates the Senate has passed amendments that set English as the national language, but also preserved the government’s ability to conduct business in other languages.

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