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English-only laws gathering steam News Team…

English as an official language has gained momentum as proponents keep going to the ballot box with measures that discourage bilingual ballots, notices and documents. Thirty states now have laws specifying that official government communications be in English, says U.S. English Inc., a group that promotes the laws. This year such bills are under consideration in 19 legislatures.

Critics do not see progress. Some say the increase in the measures sends a hostile message to newcomers. “It just poisons the atmosphere in local communities,” says John Trasviña, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Typically, the proposed laws require that documents, ballots and other communications be published in English. Exempt are communications to protect public health and safety or efforts to promote tourism.

The effectiveness of the movement is in question because federal law may trump a state’s official-English law. For instance, the Voting Rights Act requires certain localities to publish bilingual ballots.

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