Monday, December 4, 2006

“Hola” may not be the greeting of choice among Hispanics living in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults — 65 percent — favor making English the nation’s official language, according to a survey released yesterday..

“More than three-in-four immigrants to the U.S. favored the legislation, as did nearly 60 percent of first-generation and 79 percent of second-generation Americans,” the survey from Zogby International found.

Another 67 percent of respondents not born here favored the idea compared with 64 percent of those born in the U.S. Favorable numbers were highest among Hispanics with less than a high school education (73 percent), young adults age 18 to 29 years (70 percent), Republicans (69 percent) and those from Mexico (69 percent).

“Making English our official language celebrates the unifying factor in our diverse nation,” said Mauro Mujica, chairman of District-based, 1.8 million-member U.S. English, an activist group seeking to preserve English usage in the government and elsewhere.

“This poll should demonstrate to legislators that their efforts to make English the official language are supported, not derided, by the Hispanic community,” Mr. Mujica said.

The survey of 903 Hispanic adults was conducted Nov. 17 to 20, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Currently, 27 states have adopted laws making English their official language. On a global level, 92 percent of the world’s nations have adopted an official language, according to the U.S. Census and the World Almanac. English is the language of choice in 31 of them.

According to new figures released by the Census Bureau last month, 52 million people speak a language other than English at home; 45 percent of them say they speak English “less than very well.” Spanish was the most prevalent, spoken by 62 percent; almost half of that population said they were not proficient in English.

The greatest percentage of non-English speakers are in border states, along with Nevada, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Colorado, with the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia ranked 14th, 24th and 25th, respectively, on a Census ranking of non-English speaking states.

Though 160 members of Congress recently supported H.R. 997, the English Language Unity act, which would make English the official national language, local governments are increasingly calling the shots in their own regions. Towns and counties in Maryland, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and California are among those passing English language referendums. The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners in Georgia votes today on their own measure, which also includes a proposal to fine landlords who rent to illegal aliens.

“As an immigrant to the U.S., I am not surprised by the strong support for official English among Hispanics,” said Mr. Mujica, who came here from Chile in 1965. “The majority of immigrants understand that coming to a new country means learning the language of that country. While individuals are free to speak the language of their choice, they cannot expect the government to provide information in every foreign language.”

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