The fight to overturn Colorado’s official-English law continues, even though the issue that burned so hotly in the ’80s has cooled considerably.
Opponents of the official-English amendment are heartened by the recent repeal of an English-only law in Miami. Still, they face an uphill battle in fighting the Colorado law, supported by 64% of the voters in 1988.
Colorado is one of 19 states with laws that declare English their official language. The laws were passed in the mid-1980s in an effort to impress upon immigrants the importance of learning English.
No state has passed such a law since 1989, though a national group, U.S. English, is running advertisements calling for a national official-English law.
Colorado’s law has not halted bilingual education in public schools, and neither has it put an end to the printing of other languages on official government documents – as opponents had feared.
Still, some see it as an insult to people who speak other languages and an irritant that stands in the way of racial harmony.
Opponents are pinning their hopes on a federal lawsuit in an appeals courts. They say they don’t have the political muscle to overturn the amendment at the polls.
The lawsuit is in the hands of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
U.S. District Court Judge Jim Carrigan upheld the election in April 1992. The judge agreed with opponents that Secretary of State Natalie Meyer did not give official-English opponents proper notice of the proposal in advance of the election. Still, Carrigan declined to overturn the amendment.
”Our clients did not find out about this until the petitions were already being circulated,” Barry D. Roseman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the appellate judges.
But the attorney general argued that publicity about the official-English amendment was so widespread that opponents should have been aware of it.
Rita Montero, one of the plaintiffs, said that as the parties await the appellate decision, the Colorado Coalition Against English Only is working with opponents of similar movements in other states.
Opponents take heart in a recent decision by the Dade County commissioners in Miami to repeal the county’s English-only ordinance. The law had prevented the government from ”utilizing any language other than English, or promoting any culture than that of the United States.”