Republican and Democratic Parties Address Language in 2016 Party Platforms

For Immediate Release

G ARRETT PARK, MD, August 2, 2016— On July 18, the Republican Party released their 2016 Party Platform at the Republican National Convention, and on July 21 the Democratic Party released their respective 2016 Party Platform at the Democratic National Convention. Both Party Platforms specifically addressed language and language issues in varying subsections:

In summary, the Republican Party Platform states:

Immigration and the Rule of Law. The Republican Party “both encourage[s] the preservation of heritage tongues and support[s] English as the nation’s official language.” (p. 25).

Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians. The Republican Party “support[s] efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by American Indians, including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, and to preserve their culture and languages that we consider to be national treasures.” (p. 29).

Choice in Education. The Republican Party  states that “To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society.” (p. 34)

JNCL-NCLIS values the specific attention to language in the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms and applauds the inclusion of Native American language preservation as a tenet in both Party Platforms.

Family of the Americas. The Republican Party states that “Family, language, culture, environment, and trade link us closely with both Canada and Mexico.” (p. 50).

In summary, the Democratic Party Platform states:

Fixing our Broken Immigration System. The Democratic Party “will invest in culturally-appropriate immigrant integration services, expand access to English language education, and promote naturalization to help the millions of people who are eligible for citizenship take that last step.” (p. 17).

Guaranteeing Civil Rights. The Democratic Party “will always fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability… It is unacceptable to target, defame, or exclude anyone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” (p. 18).

Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations. The Democratic Party “will manage for tribal sacred places, and empower tribes to maintain and pass on traditional religious beliefs, languages, and social practices without fear of discrimination or suppression. ” (p. 22). The Democratic Party “support[s] proactive actions by the federal government to enhance Native Hawaiian culture, health, language, and education.” (p. 23).

Protect Voting Rights, Fix Our Campaign Finance System, and Restore Our Democracy. The Democratic Party “will ensure that election officials comply with voting protections, including provisions mandating bilingual materials and voter assistance.” (p.24).

Strengthening Management of Federal Government. The Democratic Party “believe[s] that government services should be culturally and linguistically appropriate and that data should be disaggregated for those communities, like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where it is necessary to fully understand and address their needs.” (p. 26).

Guaranteeing Universal Preschool and Good Schools for Every Child. The Democratic Party “will hold schools, districts, communities, and states accountable for raising achievement levels for all students—particularly low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.” (p. 32) and “oppose[s] high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing;” (p. 33). The Democratic Party believes that “Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.” (p. 34).

Securing Universal Health Care. The Democratic Party “believe[s] that all health care services should be culturally and linguistically appropriate, and that neither fear nor immigration status should be barriers that impede health care access.” (p. 35).

JNCL-NCLIS’s Response:

JNCL-NCLIS values the specific attention to language in the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms and applauds the inclusion of Native American language preservation as a tenet in both Party Platforms.

In the Republican Party Platform, JNCL-NCLIS values the encouragement to preserve heritage languages and the acknowledgement of language as a linking force among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, JNCL-NCLIS notes the Republican Party’s support of English as the official language of the United States and the English First approach to education. JNCL-NCLIS urges the Republican Party to recognize the true plurality of languages in “the mainstream American life” and to embrace what research has shown regarding the immense benefits of bilingualism for the individual, community, and society. Thus, JNCL-NCLIS cautions that the English First approach to education is not a trajectory for advancing in 21st century American society, particularly for English Language Learners.

In the Democratic Party Platform, JNCL-NCLIS values the investment in linguistically appropriate resources for immigrants and minority groups, and overall in healthcare and voter assistance. JNCL-NCLIS applauds the Democratic Party’s denunciation of language-based discrimination and specific attention to the needs of English Language Learners in education.

JNCL-NCLIS urges both Parties to devote additional attention to world languages in primary and secondary education, as well as language issues in higher education, national security, and economic competitiveness.

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About JNCL-NCLIS: The Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies represent over 115 organizations and companies in the language space, advocating for languages in the Nation’s capital.

Contact: Bill Rivers, Executive Director, info@languagepolicy.org, (202) 580-8684

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