Wisconsin doesn’t need English-only law

Teen marcher at Milwaukee Federal Building calling for DACA protections, alongside Voces de la Frontera. (Photo by: Isiah Holmes)

Teen marcher for immigrant rights at Milwaukee Federal Building with Voces de la Frontera. A proposed English-only law only exacerbates hate, the group says. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

Three Republican State Senators have ushered in the new year with a nasty and needless bill to make English the official state language of Wisconsin.

The authors—Senators David Craig, Andre Jacque, and Steve Nass—dusted off an English-only bill that failed to pass in 2013 and are reintroducing it this session.

It has no chance of becoming law this time around, either, as Gov. Evers would veto it in a heartbeat.

Instead, it will serve to only fan the flames of bigotry that have already led to an increase in hate crimes in this country. Attacks motivated by bias or prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018, with hate crimes against Latinos jumping 13% from 2017, according to the FBI.

Regrettably, appealing to white nationalism is a big part of the playbook of the Republican Party, especially under President trump. We don’t need more of that here in Wisconsin.

We saw what this rhetoric can lead to on Nov. 1 in Milwaukee when a white man threw acid in the face of Mahud Villalaz, a U.S. citizen who was born in Peru but who has lived here for two decades.

The language of the bill is sweeping in its scope. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, the bill stipulates that, with a few exceptions, “All written expression by all units of state and local government in this state shall be in the English language.”

Would this mean that the Wisconsin Elections Commission couldn’t print out voter information in Spanish?

Would this mean that a local government, in Wausau, for instance, couldn’t publish a user guide to city services in Hmong, even though it has a large Hmong population?

Would this mean that the Milwaukee County website could no longer be offered in Spanish, as it is now?

Along with the hatemongering, this bill is another example of Republicans trying to usurp authority from local governments. In the last eight years, they have passed more than 180 bills that took away the authority of local governments.

Senator Jacque is seeking co-sponsors by Jan. 20. Citizens, and Jacque’s fellow Senators, should oppose this bigoted bill. 

It’s not Wisconsin nice.

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Christine Neumann-Ortiz
Christine Neumann-Ortiz

Christine Neumann-Ortiz is the founding Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, a low-wage and immigrant workers center with chapters in Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin, including a student chapter called Students United for Immigrant Rights with members from 3 high schools. Voces de la Frontera is increasingly recognized as Wisconsin’s leading voice for immigration reform.

Matt Rothschild
Matt Rothschild

Prior to joining the Democracy Campaign at the start of 2015, Matt worked at The Progressive magazine for 32 years. For most of those, he was the editor and publisher of The Progressive.