Controversy Ahead Of House Hearing On GOP’s ‘English Only’ Bill

August 2, 2012 2:19 a.m.

A Republican witness at today’s House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on legislation making English the official language of the United States is from an organization with ties to racism.

Dr. Rosalie Porter, chairwoman of the board of ProEnglish, is testifying in support of the “English Language Unity Act of 2011” before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution on Thursday morning.

ProEnglish is headed by executive director Robert Vandervoort, who came under fire for hosting a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year featuring Peter Brimelow of the website VDARE, an organization labeled as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The panel also featured a speech from then-National Review editor John Derbyshire, who would later be fired from the magazine for writing a racist article in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.Porter also spoke on the CPAC panel, where the immigrant and former bilingual teacher called bilingual education an “insane idea.”

Rep. Steve King (R), the sponsor of the bill (which has 120 cosponsors), spoke at the CPAC panel as well, where he complained that an unnamed Republican leader would not let him be floor manager of an English-only bill because he wasn’t an immigrant (it’s unclear if that has changed, King’s office did not respond to a request for comment). King will attend a press conference alongside ProEnglish after Thursday’s subcommittee hearing.

Vandervoort himself came under fire from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which labeled him a “white nationalist” for his alleged ties to the Chicagoland Friends of the American Renaissance. At the time, Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign downplayed Vandervoort’s attendance at a luncheon for the candidate. Vandervoort has previously denied the charge, telling TPM earlier this year that he had “never been affiliated with any group that promotes hate or violence.” Vandervoort didn’t respond to TPM’s interview request on Wednesday evening.

Democrats are slamming Republicans for spending time on a piece of legislation which could prevent non-English speakers from casting a ballot or interacting with their government.

“Are you really going to tell someone who came here from the Soviet Union that they shouldn’t vote because they have poor English language skills?” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in a statement . “I really don’t think this country gains, and in fact I believe we are harmed, by excluding many good people from jointing the families who came from around the world to be part of this great nation.”

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