|Headquarters||20 F Street NW, 7th Floor|
ProEnglish is an American nonprofit lobbying organization that is part of the English-only movement. The group supports making English the only official language of the United States. The group has also campaigned against immigration reform and bilingual education.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti-Defamation League, which track extremist groups in the United States, identify the group as an anti-immigrant group. The SPLC designated the organization as a hate group.
Founding and leadership
The group was founded in 1994 as English Language Advocates. The group was established by John Tanton, a leading figure in the anti-immigration movement, along with several of his associates from the organization U.S. English, from which Tanton had resigned after a controversial over racially-charged memos that he had written. The organization is part of Tanton's broader "loose-knit" network of anti-immigration organizations; others include Californians for Population Stabilization, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and Social Contract Press. As of 2015, ProEnglish "is one of the few remaining groups in Tanton's network in which he remains actively involved."
The group was originally based in Arlington, Virginia, where it shared office space with NumbersUSA. Its headquarters are now located in Washington, D.C. Robert D. Park was the first chair of the group. The group's former executive directors are K.C. McAlpin and Robert "Bob" Vandervoort. In 2016, Sam Pimm, former executive director of Young Americans for Freedom and former executive director of a pro-Ben Carson super PAC, became executive director of the group.
Beliefs and activities
ProEnglish has been a major part of the "English-as-official-language movement." The group also has opposed comprehensive immigration reform. The chief purpose of the organization at the time of its founding was to defend the Arizona "Official English" ballot initiative, which was adopted in 1988, overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court in 1998, and re-enacted in revised form by Arizona voters in 2006. In addition to seeking the enactment of laws and policies declaring English to be the official language, ProEnglish "seeks to end bilingual education, repeal federal mandates for the translation of government documents and voting ballots in languages other than English." Among ProEnglish's key priorities is the rescission of Executive Order 13166, an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton which states that any entity that receives federal funds "must provide whatever services it offers in any foreign language spoken by anyone likely to receive those services." ProEnglish also opposes Puerto Rican statehood unless Puerto Rico were to adopt English as its official language.
The group's reported ties to the white nationalist movement have drawn scrutiny. The Anti-Defamation League wrote in 2014 that the group had a "nativist agenda and xenophobic origins and ties." Robert Vandervoort of Illinois, the former executive director of ProEnglish, was head of the Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance, the racist magazine led by Jared Taylor that serves as an outlet for white nationalist ideology. In 2012, ProEnglish hosted a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on "The Failure of Multiculturalism," on which one of the panelists was VDARE founder Peter Brimelow. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups in the United States, designated the group as a hate group in its 2014, 2015, and 2016 annual reports. The group has dismissed such criticism.
ProEnglish was a major backer of the unsuccessful 2009 Nashville Charter Amendment 1, a local "English First" ballot referendum in Nashville, Tennessee, which would have generally required government communication and publications to be printed in English only. ProEnglish donated $82,500, about 92% of the total amount raised by the referendum's supporters. The referendum was rejected by Nashville voters. In 2012, ProEnglish was the leading force behind a successful effort to make English the official language of Frederick County, Maryland; the county enacted an ordinance closely based on one drafted by the group. However, in 2015, the country repealed the ordinance, marking a defeat for the organization.
In 2005, ProEnglish was helping pay the legal fees of at least two employers who had an "English-only rule" requiring employees to speak only English while on the job. ProEnglish paid the legal fees of Terri Bennett, a former nursing student at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona, "who claimed she was wrongly suspended for complaining when fellow students spoke Spanish to one another in class." At trial, the evidence showed that Bennett had called Hispanic classmates "spics, beaners and illegals" and the Spanish language "gibberish." A jury unanimously rejected the Bennett's claims, and in 2015 ordered her to pay $111,000 in attorney's fees to PCC.
In 2008, ProEnglish, along with the Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging 2004 U.S. Department of Health and Human Service regulations that required federally funded healthcare providers to provide translation services for patients who do not speak English. The challengers claimed that the regulations were an "illegal intrusion" on healthcare providers. U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz dismissed the suit in 2009.
In 2013, ProEnglish vocally opposed the comprehensive immigration reform bill sponsored by the "Gang of Eight," a bipartisan group of U.S. senators. ProEnglish carried out a radio ad campaign against U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who was part of the Gang of Eight.
In 2014, ProEnglish criticized The Coca-Cola Company for airing a Super Bowl commercial that showed people of different ethnicities singing "America, the Beautiful" in a variety of languages. ProEnglish condemned Coca-Cola (saying the ad fostered "disunity") urged its supporters and urged its supports to contact the company to express opposition.
- Domenico Maceri, Multilingualism: Americans are embracing Spanish, International Herald Tribune (June 24, 2003).
- Miriam Jordan, Testing 'English Only' Rules: Employers Who Require Workers to Speak English Can Face Discrimination Suits, Wall Street Journal (November 8, 2005).
- Anti-Immigrant Group ProEnglish Fails With English-Only Effort in Maryland, Hatewatch, Southern Poverty Law Center (August 27, 2015).
- Oren Segal, ProEnglish Attacks Super Bowl Ad Promoting America's Diversity, Anti-Defamation League (February 5, 2014).
- "Active Anti-Immigrant Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
- Active Hate Groups in the United States in 2015, Southern Poverty Law Center (February 4, 2016).
- Active Hate Groups 2016, Intelligence Report (February 15, 2017).
- Christina Ziegler-McPherson, "English Only Groups" in Anti-Immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia (Vol. 1: ed. Kathleen R. Arnold: Greenwood, 2011), p. 182.
- Rosemary C. Salomone, True American (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 148.
- Jonh Tanton's Network, Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center (2015).
- Brian Bennett & Joseph Tanfani, Group opposing immigration bill plans full-scale campaign on House, Los Angeles Times (July 13, 2013).
- Sandra Del Valle, Language Rights and the Law in the United States: Finding Our Voices (Multilingual Matters, 2003), p. 79.
- Robert W. Sussman, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 299.
- ProEnglish Board of Directors Welcomes New Executive Director Sam Pimm (press release), ProEnglish (June 2, 2016).
- Michael S. Rosenwald, Frederick County makes English its official language, Washington Post (February 22, 2012).
- Jennifer Rubin, Gang of Eight moves forward, Washington Post (May 14, 2013).
- Desiree Evans, Largest funder of Nashville's failed English-only amendment had links to hate groups, Facing South, Institute for Southern Studies (January 27, 2009).
- Patrick Caldwell, White Nationalists Agree: Multiculturalism Is Bad, The American Prospect (February 9, 2012).
- Carol Ann Alaimo, Student suit vs. Pima College draws support of ProEnglish group, Arizona Daily Star (July 14, 2013).
- Juanita Cousins, Nashville voters reject 'English First' proposal, Associated Press (January 22, 2009).
- Carol Ann Alaimo, Ex-student who sued Pima College must pay $111K, Arizona Daily Star (October 15, 2015).
- Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by ProEnglish Over HHS Guidelines on Translation Services for Patients, Kaiser Health News (June 11, 2009).