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Friday, April 25, 2008

Frederick County, MD Rightfully Refuses to follow Prince William County

Guy Djoken

Yesterday, April 24, 2008 we called a press conference to oppose Frederick County Maryland Commissioner Charles Jenkins's latest English Only proposal and Commissioner John L. Thompson's proposal to count illegal immigrant students in county. The Frederick County, Maryland Branch of the NAACP expresses its strong objection and vehement opposition to both propositions. It is a pity that these two elected officials will get so low as if they were looking for ways to antagonize the peaceful community that is still recovering from previous attempts to ostracize them.

It is reassuring to know that we have a majority of Frederick County Commissioners who are wise enough to resist the slippery slope that some are trying hard to get us in. For those who do not understand logic and economics, I invite them to read and think twice before proposing such controversial laws in Frederick. I hope Commissioner Jenkins will call Prince William County supervisor Frank Principi to find out why he is moving to repeal the anti-immigrant law. That may give him an opportunity to take a second look at his next proposal before bringing it to the floor.

Thanks to Frederick County Commissioners Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen, Frederick County will be saved from these kind of humiliating proposals. Common sense does prevail in Frederick, thanks to ardent Civil Rights Advocates and Great Spiritual Leaders such as Mr. James Upchurch and Visionary County Leaders such as Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen.

Here are the reasons why we should oppose the proposed English only proposal: English-only ordinances are a bad solution to a problem that does not exit. Almost every American already speaks English. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 92% of Americans Speak English. The vast majority of Americans (215,423,57 out of 262,375,152- 82%) speaks only English at home.

Government business is almost exclusive done in English. Studies by the federal government General Accountability Office have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of U.S. government documents are printed in English only. In fact, only about 200 or less that 1%--of U.S government documents are published in a language other than English.

English-only ordinances would not increase the use of the English language. Immigrant adults want to learn English, but have few opportunities to do so. All over the country, English language learners face long waiting lists for adult ESL classes, especially in-demand evening and weekend classes. In New York City, for example English courses are so oversubscribed that last year only 41,347 adults out of an estimated one million adult English language learners were able to enroll.

English-only ordinances would place the health and safety of all Americans at risk. By restricting communication with people who are speakers of other languages, these ordinances could weaken the delivery of public health and safety messages that are intended to protect all Americans. If some portion of the community does not receive information that it can understand about immunization or other health threats, the entire public is at risk.

English-only ordinances would also make it difficult to respond to a natural or man-made disaster. These ordinances would make it more difficult for local first responders and agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to respond to a pandemic flu, another natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, or another terrorist attack.

Today's immigrants learn English as quickly as previous groups. A recent report found that the second generation of immigrants is largely bilingual; 92 % of second-generation Hispanic immigrants speak English well as do 96% of second-generation Asians, though most also speak another language at home. By the third generation, the pattern is English monolingualism.

English-language acquisition is important. All Americans, including immigrants, understand fully the importance of mastering English in order to achieve the American Dream. English-only policies will not help us achieve this important goal.

On the Request by Commissioner Thompson to count illegal immigrant students in county, it is a pity to play politics with the education of our kids. What is the rationale behind such a move? We know that federal law does allow young students to receive an education regardless of immigration status. Trying to label students as "illegal immigrants" can only lead to discriminatory actions against those labeled as such. Last year it was the so called race neutral legislation that has nothing neutral about it.

Early this year, Thompson was bullying Felicia Turner, chairwoman of Delta Youth Days for an event held at Winchester Hall to introduce government to minority students and encourage them to get involve in local government.

What about focusing on the economy that is hurting Frederick County residents with health care that is becoming more and more unaffordable? This is more of the typical and cynical "scare tactics" policy that are very counterproductive at a time when people are worried about losing their home and lifetime saving.

Guy Djoken is the President, NAACP Frederick County, Maryland Branch

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