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Commentary

'Press 2 for Spanish,' Similar Programs Cost Billions, but Trump Could End It

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The federal government recently shut down after Congress refused to approve the $5.7 billion requested by President Trump for a border wall … but what if it could be funded by ending one wasteful government program being used by foreigners?

A report from The Washington Times has revealed that billions and billions of dollars have been spent providing language support to non-English speakers. Most of those, ironically enough, speak Spanish — and Trump could redirect that funding with a few signatures from the Oval Office.

Back in August of 2000, less than six months before President Bill Clinton left office, he signed an executive order regarding “limited English proficiency,” or LEP. In basic terms, Clinton declared that it was the government’s job to make sure that people who don’t speak English could access federal services.

You might have run into LEP before. If you’ve ever heard an automated message ask you to “press 2 for Spanish” or something similar when calling a government agency, there’s a good chance that came about because of the Clinton-era order.

But as always, there was a catch. It turns out that providing countless translations and duplicate systems in languages other than English can get very expensive.

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“The last time federal officials took a look at the cost, during the first term of President George W. Bush, the Office of Management and Budget fixed it at $2 billion annually,” reported The Times.

“If that price has held steady, then it would mean taxpayers have shelled out more than $30 billion on mandated translations of the government’s business,” the newspaper continued.

Yes, in a twist of irony, the southern border wall could have been funded five times over using the money being poured into government translation services for Mexicans and other foreigners. And that $2 billion-per-year will likely increase as more immigrants flood the country.

“Although Mr. Clinton’s executive order covers all tongues, Spanish is the most prevalent one given the demographics of immigration and the emergence of entire communities where there is no need to learn English,” The Times explained.

Do you support ending LEP and making English the official language?

Now, critics of LEP are pointing out that it may be a perfect time to make English the official language of the United States, and end the wasteful spending being used to accommodate millions of immigrants.

“The government must stop placing this onerous and costly translation and interpretation burden on Americans, and President Trump has the ability to do so on a speedy basis via a new executive order,” declared Stephen Guschov, who runs the advocacy group ProEnglish.

One of the big problems with LEP is the “slippery slope.” When officials decide that the government must provide services in one foreign language, they don’t stop there, but keep expanding the program until hundreds of languages from Spanish to Swahili must be supported by the government. Where does it end?

If the change happened, legal immigrants would of course still be welcomed, but the government could get out of the language translation business.

People would be free to speak whatever they wanted at home or during the day, but simply would be expected to use English when dealing with the federal government.

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New residents would be encouraged to learn English as quickly as possible, with family, non-profit groups, and businesses providing translation services as needed.

By making English the official government language of the land, proponents say billions could be saved and huge headaches could be avoided — and the American people strongly agree.

“The concept of English-only laws has overwhelming support with the American public,” The Times reported.

“Rasmussen (polling group) has been asking about official English for years and said last April that the percentage approving the position has moved within a range of 83 percent to 87 percent since 2006,” the paper continued, “with only 12 percent thinking English should not the official language of the U.S.”

The entire point of the so-called melting pot is that diverse groups melt together into a common national culture. That’s how assimilation in America works, and it just might be time for it to happen in English.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.




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