With all the pressing issues facing Pennsylvania lawmakers, a Republican-led state House committee managed to fritter away several hours on a proposal to make English the state's official language.

The legislators assembled last week by panel chairman Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) even spent a moment of silence in memory of the late Joey Vento, who directed that the hungry and huddled masses at his South Philly cheesesteak stand order only in English.

Then, things really went downhill. A legislator from York County - apparently conversant in the views of 300 million people who trace their heritage to every corner of the globe - offered a fractured civics lesson that boiled down to: America, love it or leave it if you don't like speaking the mother tongue.

"This is our country, our culture, our lifestyle, and our language," said Rep. Scott Perry (R., York). "If our language doesn't suit you, no one forced you to come here, and no one is forcing you to stay."

Perry, along with state Rep. RoseMarie Swanger (R., Lebanon), offered legislation that would force the state to conduct most business in English. They pointed to purported savings from not having to print as many documents in other languages. But that's probably where the dollar savings end.

If the measures led to reduced funding for programs that teach English to newcomers to these shores, those immigrants might well be worse off when seeking jobs. Maybe they'd even wind up on welfare, costing the state a bundle.

What about people with minimal English skills seeking medical treatment? If they can't access care due to language barriers, they might wind up with more serious illnesses that are even more costly to treat.

Beyond any practical considerations is the negative message that the English-only movement sends to immigrants. That's why the American Civil Liberties Union blasts English-only laws as "contrary to the spirit of tolerance and diversity embodied in our Constitution."

These measures are remedies in search of a problem, since the vast majority of U.S. residents are fluent in English, and most immigrants are eager to learn.

Like requiring photo identification to vote, or empowering police to pull over anyone "suspected of being unlawfully" in the country, these English-only measures tap into anti-immigrant feelings that actually dishonor this nation of immigrants.