Senate votes to make English the "national language" of the United States

President George W. Bush has long opposed making English the country's national language, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Friday, the day after the Senate voted to do so.

The vote came in an amendment to proposed legislation overhauling U.S. immigration law and directed the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English. Opponents said it could affect the status of some multilingual services offered by government organizations.

Adding to the confusion, the Senate also adopted a softer amendment calling English the "unifying language" of the United States. Senators take both versions into negotiations over a final bill with the U.S. House of Representatives, reports Reuters.

After an emotional debate fraught with symbolism, the Senate on Thursday voted to make English the "national language" of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law.

The measure, approved 63 to 34, directs the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services to be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress.

That vote, considered a defeat for immigration-rights advocates, was followed Thursday night by an important victory: On a 58-35 vote, the Senate killed an amendment that would have blocked eventual citizenship for future immigrants who arrive under a temporary work permit. Democrats and Republicans agreed the amendment would have destroyed the fragile bipartisan coalition backing the Senate bill, informs Daily Herald.

According to Olberlin , Bush, who often peppers his speeches with Spanish words and phrases, had little to say about the Senate votes while visiting the Arizona-Mexico border. "The Senate needs to get the bill out," the president said.

Bush toured an unfortified section of the border in the Arizona desert Thursday, where he endorsed using fences and other barriers to cut down on illegal crossings. The Senate on Wednesday voted to put 370 miles of fences on the border.

O.Ch.