Friday, June 25, 2010
English-only in Lino Lakes?
I worked for the farm workers in California for two-and-a-half years in the late 1980's. I came to learn that the phrase “English-only” was code for “you are not welcome here.”
So when I read that Lino Lakes council member, Dave Roeser, used the term "English-only I couldn't help but hear these code words. Roeser wants to establish English as the official language of Lino Lakes.
The Star Tribune wrote an article about the story at this site, http://www.startribune.com/local/north/96979259.html.
The Pioneer Press wrote an article at this site: http://www.twincities.com/ci_15362682?source=most_emailed&nclick_check=1.
The Quad City Press wrote an article at this site: http://presspubs.com/articles/2010/06/22/quad_community_press/news/doc4c20dcab494f6843091782.txt.
Roeser said that he wanted to establish English as the official language of Lino Lakes as a cost-saving measure. Apparently the city would save money if they didn't have to translate documents into non-English languages.
In the Pionner Press article Roeser was quoted as saying that the city doesn't spend any money right now on documents in languages other than English. His proposed policy would guarantee that the city wouldn't be required to spend money in the future on translation services.
So let me get this straight. Roeser wants to save money to solve a problem that isn't costing the City any money. He's using words that minority groups have come to understand to mean, “you are not welcome here.” And he claimed that this proposed policy is not anti-immigrant?
That doesn't pass the smell test.
I don't know Dave Roeser, I've never met him, and I would be happy to grill a steak for him and try to understand his rationale for having an English-only policy in Lino Lakes, a city where the church I serve worships.
It wouldn't surprise me if the City of Lino Lakes passed an English-only policy they would end up paying more in court costs than whatever amount they would save in the future.
I would like every person in our country to learn and know English; however I've never been convinced that passing English-only policies causes people to learn English. I've seen the English-only rhetoric for what it is—a way to make immigrants, legal and illegal—know that they aren't truly part of the community. If any politician was deeply concerned about people learning English, they would go out of their way to fund ESL classes.
All of the non-English speaking adults I have known have wanted their children to learn English. In fact I don't know any child of non-English speaking parents who doesn't speak English.
As a person of faith my final test is what would Jesus do. He spent much of his time with the people whom his first-century culture ignored. If he lived in the United States today, I believe he would go out of his way to spend time with people who didn't speak English. I believe he would encourage this group to learn English, but he wouldn't do it by passing a law.
Immigrants do have the responsibility to assimilate; just as politicians have the responsibility to be frank about their motives.