Resolution on the US Census Bureau categorizing individuals and families as "linguistically isolated"

April, 2007

Whereas, In 1990 the US Census Bureau began categorizing individuals and families as “linguistically isolated “ if their household “ is one in which no member 14 years old and over (1) speaks only English or (2) speaks a non-English language and speaks English "very well" [Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3, Matrices P19, P20, PCT13, and PCT14].

and whereas there is no threat to the primacy of English, since 82% of the US population speaks only English at home and more than 2/3 of those who do speak a language other than English at home, primarily Spanish speakers, also speak English well or very well (2000 Census), and whereas the Census does not ask about proficiency in any language except English although multilingualism is a valued norm in most communities worldwide, and every national study of education in the US decries the failure of most of the US population to speak a second language, including the failure of the children of immigrants to keep their heritage language, and whereas a widespread and growing English- only ideology, fostered by misinformation about the desire and ability of immigrants to speak English, has led numerous states to declare English their official language, thus denying bilingual services, and/or to make it illegal to teach children in their heritage language even when they are also taught in English, and whereas increasing evidence of linguistic intolerance and linguistic profiling in housing, employment, education, health, and child custody cases have been documented throughout the USA, and whereas the term “linguistically isolated” conveys the false and damaging view that people who do not speak English very well have no contact with English speakers and/or are outside the pale of U.S. society,

and whereas the Census Bureau's application of the term 'linguistically isolated" to all members of a family in which no one over the age of 14 speaks English very well incorrectly categorizes the children in those families under the age of 14 who speak English very well, and whereas the Census Bureau' categorizes as 'isolated' only the small percent of households in the USA where adults have some difficulty with English, not the great majority in which no one speaks anything but English,

Therefore be it resolved that the AAAL urge the Census Bureau to include a question about proficiency in languages other than English, and to stop classifying those who speak English less than very well-- and all members of their households-- as "linguistically isolated" because the term is inaccurate and discriminatory, and the classification promotes an ideology of linguistic superiority that foments linguistic intolerance and conflict.