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Oklahoma Congressional Delegation Questions U.S. Attorney General on Official English-Related Threats

July 28, 2009

The seven members of Oklahoma’s Congressional Delegation sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today, questioning the timing and purpose of a letter that threatened to withhold federal funds if Oklahoma passed legislation to make English the official language of the state. The original letter, sent from the Department of Justice to Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, cautions that the pending Oklahoma law might conflict with federal requirements and might result in state agencies losing federal funding.

In their response, Oklahoma’s Senators and Representatives questioned the motives of  the Justice Department, inquiring why the state was singled out with threats when many other states have similar laws already on the books. Furthermore, the legislators also demanded answers as to why the letter was sent without provocation at the height of legislative debate. The letter was signed by Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn and by Representatives Tom Cole, Mary Fallin, Dan Boren, Frank Lucas and John Sullivan.

“I join with the Oklahoma delegation in expressing my concerns about the actions of the Department of Justice in this matter,” said Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of U.S. English, Inc. “After more than 20 years in creating constitutionally-sound official English policies, I sincerely question why this specific bill was singled out with a threatening rebuke. The fact that this measure closely mirrors legislation considered and enacted in other states raises serious concerns about the intent and holds serious implications for any legislation pending in any state.”

To see the letter sent by the Department of Justice, click here.
To see the letter sent to Attorney General Holder, click here.

Earlier this spring, the Oklahoma legislature passed a ballot initiative that would make English the official language of the state. The Senate voted, 44-2 on Apr. 23, and the House voted, 89-8 on May 6. The decision on whether to conduct most government business in English will now be given to the voters on the 2010 general election ballot. If passed, Oklahoma will become the 31st state to make English its official language.

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