Hola. Marhaba. Bonjour. Ni Hao. Hello.
Michigan is a land that hears a slew of languages spoken and sees large minority populations settle in places like Dearborn, southwest Detroit and Hamtramck.
On Feb. 22, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that would make English the official state language.
House Bill 4053 was sponsored by eight Republicans and passed with a 62-46 vote with a majority of Republicans in the House voting yes.
The bill calls for government documents, meetings, records, policies and actions to be written in English; however, it would not prohibit state departments from translating official documents to other languages, as long as the original document be filed in English. HB 4053 would not influence private sector activity.
Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), one of the bill’s sponsors said the bill simply codifies into law what is already being practiced in Michigan.
“It doesn’t make sense for Americans to change, [immigrants should] change. This is a statement of compassion,” Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township) told the Detroit Free Press.
Glenn also said English-proficient immigrants are more successful.
Rep. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) released a statement opposing the bill. “I am appalled that with all the emerging issues in the state, House Republicans would vote and pass a bill focused on designating an official state language.”
Santana stresses that the bill will do nothing but alienate those that speak a language other than English in Michigan.
Many are wondering what changes, if any, this bill will bring to the citizens of Michigan.
Julinar Al-Hakimi, a third year psychology major at Wayne State University said the only change she thinks it will make is a reinforcement of dominance.
“In a sense, I think it would just make non-native speakers feel even less welcomed,” said Al-Hakimi. “They’d have to go through more trouble to obtain public records or documents that are translated for them to be able to understand.”
David Merolla, an associative professor of sociology at WSU said there are two dimensions involved in the opposition of immigration – economic and cultural.
The economic dimension involves the belief that immigrants are going to take jobs of those previously living in the country; the cultural dimension is the belief that immigrants are going to fundamentally change the fabric of society, which often falls on religion or language.
“This is almost purely symbolic,” said Merolla.
Some are in support of Michigan’s adoption of an official language.
Mandeta Gjata, who's working toward a PhD in French studies, said she believes that all states and countries should have official languages as long as it doesn’t affect the ability of people obtaining jobs.
Gjata, who was born in Albania and immigrated to France, said, “For a foreigner, it’s a bit obvious that a language spoken in a country should be official.”
The bill still has to be voted on by the Michigan Senate.