Alex Johnson, MSNBC, June 15, 2009
In perfect, if Southern-inflected, Japanese, Eric Crafton urged his colleagues on the Nashville, Tenn., City Council to let voters decide whether English should be the city’s official language.
The council’s decision to put the measure on the city ballot set off a bitter and expensive campaign, with Crafton and supporters from the nation’s “official English” movement pitted against the mayor, the governor of Tennessee and the leaders of numerous religious and community groups.
Nashville voters rejected the measure in January, but it won the support of 43 percent of them. Had they prevailed, Nashville would have become the largest city in the country to require that its official government business be conducted solely in English.
Numerous campaigns across country
The movement to make English the official language of U.S. government seems to run in cycles, and for now it’s back. Since the beginning of the year, four bills to that effect have been introduced in Congress, with versions of the idea included as part of at least three other bills. Meanwhile, similar measures have been introduced in at least 10 of the 22 states that don’t already have such provisions.
At the same time, however, programs across the country that help immigrants learn English are facing budget cuts because of the recession, which could pose a conundrum if some of the measures succeed.