The U.S. Senate has voted to make English the national language of the United States as part of sweeping immigration reform legislation.
The Senate voted 63 to 34 to establish English as the national language and require all government operations be conducted in English unless there was specific exemption in the law.
Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee supports the measure:
"To make this land of immigrants truly one country, we must have and honor our national language, our common language, and that language is English," said Lamar Alexander.
Opponents, including the Senate's top Democrat, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, expressed concern the measure would violate existing federal laws, such as those dealing with assistance to voters who have yet to master English:
"This amendment conflicts with federal law that require language materials or assistance to be provided to voters in some areas of non-English languages, where there is evidence of educational discrimination resulting in high illiteracy and low registration turnout," said Harry Reid.
The Senate is debating a sweeping immigration reform bill that would toughen border security and create a temporary guest worker program that would give the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship if they met several conditions, including learning English and paying fines.
President Bush backs the guest worker plan, but many of his conservative allies do not.
The House has passed its own immigration reform bill, but it does not include the guest worker proposal. Many in the chamber's Republican majority remain opposed to the plan, despite the President's strong endorsement of it in a nationally televised address earlier this week.
President Bush Thursday formally asked Congress for nearly $2 billion in emergency funding for his plan to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops along the U.S. border with Mexico. He did so during a visit to Yuma, Arizona, a key border area for people crossing illegally into the country from Mexico.