POLITICS

Carly Fiorina Thinks English Is The Official Language. It's Not.

Fiorina piles on speakers of other languages before launching into a call for border security.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina told CNN on Thursday that while she admires the fact that her GOP rival Jeb Bush and others are multilingual, she also "think[s] that English is the official language of the United States."

There's a problem with that belief, though: It's not.

The U.S., unlike many other countries, does not have an official language, although most states do.

The subject of language flared up this week when GOP frontrunner and real estate mogul Donald Trump criticized Bush for speaking Spanish. Bush "should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States," Trump said Wednesday.

Bush, the former Florida governor whose wife was born in Mexico, is fluent in Spanish and says he speaks it more than English at home. 

Some members of Congress, especially Republicans, have pushed to make English the official language on the national level, but without success. They argue it would be unifying and help immigrants to assimilate. 

Critics say it is unnecessary and could lead to government agencies declining to provide information in other languages, making it difficult for non-English speakers to access services they need. It's important to note that English-official laws don't always ban the government from providing documents and information in other languages, whereas English-only laws do. 

Most of the U.S. population speaks English at home, according to Census data. A majority of Latinos speak Spanish at home, but that doesn't mean they don't speak English: 68 percent of those age 5 or older speak English proficiently, according to data from the same year.

Fiorina followed her comment about English with another on border security -- even though the two issues aren't necessarily related. Many people who don't speak English at home are citizens or in the country legally and many speak a language other than Spanish

There are 25.1 million people age 5 and up with limited English proficiency in the U.S. according to the 2013 data, and while 16.2 million of them speak Spanish, another 1.7 million speak a Chinese language and 835,000 speak Vietnamese.

"For 25 years, the border has been insecure," Fiorina said on CNN. "This is absurd. This is a fall-down of a basic governmental responsibility. We have to secure the border, period. Second, we must fix the legal immigration system, because the legal immigration system is contributing to the illegal problem."

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