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Chinese Born State Senator Doesn`t Think Businesses Should Require English
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April 20, 2009, 06:58 PM
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California State Senator Leland Yee, who was born in Guangdong, but came to the US when he was three, has had a law passed that prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers who can`t speak English:
Alarmed that a professional golf organization proposed excluding competitors who don`t speak English, the state Senate acted Thursday to prohibit businesses in California from discriminating against customers, including refusal of service, based on the language they use.

The proposed law has sparked heated debate throughout the state as well as some anti-immigrant calls to the office of its author, Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who has had his own experience with discrimination.

Yee proposed the law after the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. last year proposed, and then backed down from, a policy that would have suspended golfers who do not speak adequate English. The policy was based on the premise that language fluency in speeches and media interviews was critical to the sport`s promotion.

The golfers competing in California, including some from Korea and Mexico, were considered "patrons" of the association, not employees — who are already protected under the state civil rights act.

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Yee recalled as a young boy going to a San Francisco hardware store with an uncle who was mistreated because of his lack of proficiency in English.[Law would ban California businesses from language discrimination, By Patrick McGreevy, LA Times, April 16, 2009]

I have no idea what mistreated means in this context, but probably some teenage clerk said something like "Can`t you people speak English?" (The owner of the store will always be more polite.) But of course, that`s something that can be dealt with by not shopping there anymore. And communicating with someone who has a thick Chinese accent can be tremendously difficult and frustrating:

And these language problems can cause problems between different groups of immigrants:

But seriously, if Lee`s father had been asked why he left China for America, he might have said that he came because America was a free country. And it`s becoming less so daily.