JEFFERSON CITY - "Se prohibe hablar Espanol" would be Missouri government policy under an English-only bill that has narrowly cleared a Senate committee.
"We want inmigrants to come to our shore, but once they are here, we want them to learn English so they can participate fully in the mainstream of American life," said the bill's sponsor, Sponsor of the bill Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.
"Some of our practices over the last twenty to thirty years have actually discouraged immigrants from learning English, like bilingual education," Kinder said. "I want to prevent it from becoming a problem in Missouri."
Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, was one of six committee members who voted against Kinder's bill in the 7-6 vote.
"Denying them (immigrants), especially early in their efforts to be included, basic forms that are offered by the very government that they want to be included in is discriminating," Maxwell said.
But Maxwell and Kinder agree that immigration is not creating a problem in Missouri.
Kinder said English-only movement is nationwide and includes states like Missouri, which are not specifically affected by that matter now. But the goal would be to press Washington to pass this kind of bill on a federal level.
But Maxwell said the bill is motivated by a local concern - politics.
"They (politicians) say: I'm going to protect you against all those intruders who are taking your jobs and your money, we know who they are, they can't speak our language and they are taking jobs away from our children," Maxwell said.
"It goes along with other protectionist type bills that are nothing more than about building on the fear of our citizens in order to get political power, votes."
The bill, Kinder says, does not say it will bar bilingual education as a temporary measure to move people into the mainstream of English.
The bill would allow some state support for non-English efforts, but Kinder conceded he was not certain what precisely would be allowed. "I'm not sure I can answer that."
Committee approval of the bill does not, however, assure it will reach the Senate for debate.
There already is a long list of bills awaiting Senate action.
When the English-only bill gets placed at the bottom of that list is determined by the committee chairman, Sen. Joe Moseley, D-Columbia, who voted against the bill in his committee.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.