Lawmaker wants English as official language

Thursday, March 13th 2008, 5:43 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

The controversial "Son of 1804" anti-immigration bill won't become a reality this year. 

Rep. Randy Terrill (R-District 53) decided to stop pursuing his bill which covered several immigration issues to instead focus on one issue, making English the official language of Oklahoma.

"Learning English is very, very important," Terrill said.

Terrill said he thinks it's so important he wants to amend the state constitution to make English Oklahoma's official language.

"We want to make sure as the official entity of the State of Oklahoma that our language is declared to be English and that shall be the language in which we shall conduct our business," he said.

That would mean no more state documents printed in other languages, no more drivers' license tests in Spanish and no obligation for many state agencies to provide translators, Terrill said.

"Bilingualism and multilingualism just inherently lead to conflict and division," he said.

The deadline to file bills has passed, so Terrill said he developed a plan to push through his plan.

Once a separate Senate bill passes and moves to the House, Terrill said he'll completely gut it, and turn it into his English language bill.

"It saves on some of the procedural and technical difficulties and makes sure that we get a clean up or down vote in the Senate as to whether English should be our official language."

Not all legislators agree with Terrill.

Rep. Al Lindley (D-District 93) said he opposes making English our official language.  He said it gives Oklahoma a bad name.

 "We should help people to assimilate and we don't help them assimilate if we just close our doors," Lindley said. "I don't think making Oklahoma the butt joke of the universe is productive to Oklahoma's image."

Rep. Terrill said 30 states already have made English their official language. He insists Oklahoma should too.

"Oklahoma's actually out of step by not having English the official language of the state already," he said.

Since the plan requires changing the state constitution, if Terrill's bill passes it would go to a vote of the people in the fall.

Terrill said he plans to address other anti-immigration issues he originally planned to include in the bill, next year.  He wants to require schools to report the number of illegal immigrants enrolled to the state and strengthen tools for law enforcement.