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America's diversity is a strength

Monday, August 26, 2013 - Updated: 4:09 AM

America's metaphorical melting pot simmers on, despite some misguided efforts to put a lid on it.

The U.S. Census Bureau offers fresh proof of the nation's linguistic diversity with a new mapping tool and report that show roughly where people who speak a language other than English in the home live.

Nationally, the percentage of people 5 years and older who speak a language other than English at home is on the rise. About one in five now do, but more than half of them also speak English "very well." The portion of Americans who do not speak English very well has held steady in recent years at only 8.7 percent.

Greater and lesser pockets of diversity emerge when one zooms in on the map. In California, 44 percent of people don't speak English at home. In Laredo, Texas, it's an astounding 92 percent.

In the heartland, English has a firmer hold. In Kansas, 11 percent of people speak something else at home. In Missouri, it's only 6 percent.

America remains a pluralistic society whose diversity is a strength.

Kansas erected needless barriers, passing a law in 2007 that declares English to be the official language for public business.

Missouri lawmakers have considered bills, too. Two years ago, the House passed one to require the state driver's license test to be administered only in English. Cooler heads in the Senate let it die.

The Census Bureau's map offers more than trivia. Communities can use the data to plan language services from translators who help emergency responders to English proficiency programs to library acquisitions. Govern-ment's job is to serve all residents, not just the ones who speak a preferred language.

More important, anyone can use the map to see that non-English speakers are among us. They are our neighbors throughout this great land.

We should not turn our backs on them just because they do not speak English very well.

-- Kansas City Star


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