MIAMI -- The national anthem should be sung in English -- not Spanish -- President George W. Bush declared Friday, amid growing restlessness over whether to grant legal status to immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
"One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul," the president exclaimed.
A Spanish-language version of the national anthem was released Friday by a British music producer, Adam Kidron, who said he wanted to honor America's immigrants.
When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."
He made his remarks on the matters during a wide-ranging briefing with reporters.
"I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn English," Bush said.
The president's comments came amid a burgeoning national debate -- and congressional fight -- over legislation pending in Congress, and pushed by Bush, to overhaul U.S. immigration law.
Bush called on lawmakers to move forward on legislation -- now stalled -- that would revamp immigration laws.
Large numbers of immigrant groups have planned an economic boycott next week to dramatize their call for legislation providing legal status for millions of people in the United States illegally.
"I am not a supporter of boycotts," Bush said. "I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. ... I think that most Americans agree that we've got to enforce our border."
His remarks followed release of the Spanish-language version of the song, called "Nuestro Himno" or "Our Anthem."
The initial version of "Nuestro Himno," or "Our Anthem" comes out Friday and features artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.
Some Internet bloggers and others are infuriated by the thought of "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung in a language other than English, and the version of the song has already been the target of a fierce backlash.
"Would the French accept people singing the 'La Marseillaise' in English as a sign of French patriotism? Of course not," said Mark Krikorian, head of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls.
"Nuestro Himno" uses lyrics based closely on the English-language original, said Kidron, who heads the record label Urban Box Office.
Pro-immigration protests are planned around the country for Monday, and the record label is urging Hispanic radio stations nationwide to play the cut at 7 p.m. EDT Friday in a sign of solidarity.
A remix to be released in June will contain several lines in English that condemn U.S. immigration laws. Among them: "These kids have no parents, cause all of these mean laws ... let's not start a war with all these hard workers, they can't help where they were born."
Bryanna Bevens of Hanford, Calif., who writes for the immigration-focused Web magazine Vdare.com, said the remix particularly upset her.
"It's very whiny. If you want to say all those things, by all means, put them on your poster board, but don't put them on the national anthem," she said.
Kidron, a U.S. resident for 16 years, maintains the changes are fitting. After all, he notes, American immigrants borrowed the melody of the "Star Spangled Banner" from an English drinking song.
"There's no attempt to usurp anything. The intent is to communicate," Kidron said. "I wanted to show my thanks to these people who buy my records and listen to the music we release and do the jobs I don't want to do."
Kidron said the song also will be featured on the album "Somos Americanos," which will sell for $10, with $1 going to the National Capital Immigration Coalition, a Washington group.
James Gardner, an associate director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, said Americans have long enjoyed different interpretations of the "Star-Spangled Bann er," including country or gospel arrangements.
"There are a number of renditions that people aren't happy with, but that's part of it -- that it means enough for people to try to sing," he said.
Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, said this country was built by immigrants, and "the meaning of the American dream is in that record: struggle, freedom, opportunity, everything they are trying to shut down on us."
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