In Walnut, California, Speaking English at City Council Meetings is Controversial

You can file this under the category “Why Do We Allow This?”.   A proposal for  English-only   City Council meetings in a California town is controversial. From Proposal for “English Only” Council Meetings Leads to Civil Rights Questions [Caroline Tan, 4 NBC, July 18th, 2012]:

For Walnut residents who do not speak English, participating in City Council meetings and addressing local officials may soon become more difficult. Council members voted 5-0 this week to postpone a decision on a proposal that would ask non-English speakers to provide their own interpreters for all Council proceedings, which would be conducted only in English. But the prospect of English-only public meetings remains a distinct possiblity. A vote may happen later this month, when the council is scheduled to meet again on July 25.

And this is controversial? Well, yes it is.

Though a formal decision has yet to be made, the proposed English-only policy has already raised concerns among some local residents, who fear the move would violate civil rights and unfairly disadvantage a portion of the population. Nearly two-thirds of Walnut`s residents and three of the five council members are Asian.

Isn`t knowing English a requirement for naturalization?

The proposal comes at the helm of decades of similar policies targeting the growing immigrant population in nearby cities in the San Gabriel Valley, which has transitioned from a predominantly Caucasian collection of suburbs into a center of Asian culture in Southern California.

“Which has transitioned” is a nice way of saying that whites have been dispossessed. See my recent article Get The Message, People! Demography Is Destiny!

The English-only proposal was brought to the council by local resident Wendy Barend Toy, who said she could not understand several commenters who spoke Chinese when addressing the council.

Good for Wendy.

Of course, they have to get permission from Eric Holder:

On Wednesday, the council voted to seek federal review from the U.S. Department of Justice before making a decision on the proposal.

And get this:

Daisy Duan, 27, a graduate student at the University of Southern California who speaks limited English, said in Chinese that the proposal would “definitely” affect her ability to participate in local politics.

Miss Duan is graduate student at USC and speaks “limited English”?

“I feel like English is still very difficult,” Duan said. “I know many first-generation immigrants who, when they came to America, could not speak even a single word … It`s not fair.”

“It`s not fair”. What`s not fair, having to speak English in the United States?

Duan added that she thinks the proposal is particularly problematic in California, which has a higher proportion of immigrants than any other state. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Asians represented nearly 64 percent of Walnut’s population. Whites accounted for about 24 percent, and blacks for nearly 3 percent, with the remaining residents from other races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race represented about 19 percent of the population.

Once again, it`s the demographics.

One councilman says having meetings in English wouldn`t be as difficult as the detractors say.

Walnut Councilman Tom King said Friday that the city simply can not afford to hire an interpreter for every meeting. He supports the idea of English-only meetings but has reservations about specifics in the proposal.
King said it is uncommon for residents to address the council in a language other than English, so the demand for an interpreter does not justify the costs. “It would be a financial restriction and waste of money,” King said.
He added that the last time a resident spoke to the council in a language other than English was when a Mandarin-speaking resident came to the podium in April.

Councilman King`s solution is volunteer help.

Still, King said the council hopes to represent all voices and has considered alternative solutions. “Nobody wants to disenfranchise anybody,” King said. “It`s just that our meetings are held in English, and we have someone record the meetings in English, and if they speak [a different language], their remarks are not understood.”
King said he has suggested that the Council create a “standby volunteer interpreter list” to provide language support.

However, this person doesn`t have confidence in volunteer help.

But Sissy Trinh, an active member of local advocacy group Southeast Asian Community Alliance, said she has noticed that similar initiatives in other cities ended up as “abysmal” failures. Translation is a mentally exhausting activity and volunteer help can be unreliable, she added. “You have to assume that people can take that time off and that they`re willing to,” Trinh said. “You don`t know what the quality [of translation] is, and I`ve heard of cases where people are brought in to translate and end up speaking the wrong dialect.”

“Speaking the wrong dialect”? They could solve that problem by just speaking English.

Trinh added that she considered the proposal a “civil rights violation” that “definitely doesn`t build trust with government officials.”

But King said he was not worried about volunteer recruitment. There are many bilingual students in the region who are eager to give back to their community, he said.

Here`s what Austin Yuan has to say:

Austin Yuan, 25, a first generation immigrant who is fluent in English, said he could understand the motives behind the proposal. “As a citizen, you have to understand that perhaps it`s not just the responsibility of the government to just serve you,” Yuan said. “They have to look at everyone.” Still, Yuan said he sympathized with citizens who do not speak English and feel they are being “cheated out of their tax money.”

So even though this young man is fluent in English, he winds up identifying with the Asian-American complainers.

The legal debate will likely come down to an “access issue” for those who do not speak English, according to Los Angeles-based civil rights attorney Lisa Maki. She said the issue is complicated, but added that developing a volunteer interpreter datase will likely help the city of Walnut avoid legal problems.

The Council is expected to vote on the matter later this month, pending input from the U.S. Department of Justice on any civil rights or legal issues associated with the proposal.

It`s time to drastically reduce legal immigration. The immigrants who are already here need to either (1) speak English, or (2) go back to their home country where they can speak their native language all day long if they wish.