By Michael Davies
Utah’s political battle field may be able to tip the scale on a national issue.
On November 7, Utah voters will decide whether or not English will be the state’s official language. To date, exactly half of the 50 states in the Union have passed legislation making English its primary tongue.
Initiative A proposes that Utah join the other 25 states with regulation limiting the use of translation tools.
U.S. English, a Washington D.C. based organization, said government wastes too much money translating documents. U.S. English is campaigning at national and state levels for legislation similar to Initiative A.
If Initiative A passes, all government business will be done in English. Translators will be limited to issues of health, public safety, tourism, and emergency use.
“Let’s remember, Utah does next to nothing with language aids. There’s no money to save here,” said Scott Ferran, a BYU professor who served on Utah’s State Task Force for Racial Ethics in the Courts.
With a growing percentage of immigrant residents, many Utahns are worried about the social implications of non-English speakers in our community.
Ferran, on the other hand, said these people are here because they want to become Utahns.
“This isn’t a problem here. People want to learn English,” Ferran said. “This will further slap them and push them away from the main stream.”
Joe Hunter, the campaign coordinator for Utahns for Official English, said many immigrants use translation services as a crutch. He said they are held back by giving them an easy excuse not to need English.
Citizens need to give immigrants the help they need to fit into their new community, Hunter said.
“If we are going to welcome immigrants into our towns and our state, and I think we should, we have an obligation to do everything we can to help them learn English,” Hunter said.
Initiative A has more to do with a national agenda than actual concern for Utah’s immigrants, Ferran said.
U.S. English, Ferran said, has gone state by state, vowing to use as much money necessary to have English as the official language.
U.S. English has already spent more than $100,000 here in Utah, Ferran said.
According to Ferran, no one knows what the actual agenda is for proponents of Initiative A. He said no one really knows where the money is coming from to finance the push for English as an official language.
Ferran said Utahns should decide what is or is not wrong with their state government.
“We don’t need to fit their national campaign for whatever purpose they have. We don’t need to hurt ourselves for them, for these outsiders,” Ferran said.