Blaine R. Young, President Frederick County Commissioners. Frederick County passed an ordinance declaring English the official language. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images) (FREDERICK, MD – FEBRUARY 23: Blaine R. Young, President Frederick County Commissioners pauses during an interview on the English official language law on February 23, 2012 in Frederick, Md. Frederick County has passed an ordinance declaring English as the official language upsetting folks and making some happy. The county has grown dramatically with residents from countries that are not English speaking. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images))

Maryland English-only law “sends a message”: But which one?

After a 4-1 vote, Frederick County commissioners in Maryland adopted English as its official language last week.

Just like that, all government documents have to be printed in English and are not to be translated into Spanish except in cases involving health and safety. Board President Blaine R. Young says the ordinance sends a message.

“I believe that it sends a message that we’re not a place that condones or embraces illegal immigration,” Young says.

Raul Gonzalez, legislative director for the National Council of La Raza, agrees the ordinance sends a message – but a starkly different message than Young believes.

“It’s sending a message, he’s right about that,” Gonzalez says. “The message is, ‘We don’t care whether you’re an immigrant, an undocumented immigrant or a citizen. We don’t like to see people who speak Spanish in our county.’”

Nonetheless, Young is steadfast in his belief that the ordinance will help people be far more successful, citing research which says assimilating and learning the language leads to making two to three times more money.

Gonzalez says English-only laws are a “terrible response to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

“Eighty percent of people in the U.S. only speak English,” he says. “Ordinances don’t solve a problem. If you pass it today, how many people are going to learn English tomorrow? What are they doing to support English learning?”

Young stressed that illegal immigration is the target here. He says Frederick County is near Montgomery, which is a desirable place for undocumented immigrants.

Gonzalez who lives in Montgomery, categorizes his town differently.

“It’s a place where people aren’t jerks towards anyone,” he says. “It’s a place with highly educated people and one of the best school systems in the country. People get along. I don’t know what type of coddling he thinks is going on here.”

Young says he isn’t anti-immigrant. He owns Taxi Fiesta, a taxi company geared towards the Hispanic community but clarifies that, “All my drivers speak English.”

Stephen Nuño, a political science professor at Northern Arizona University, says English-only laws are about the ability to use the power of government to impose what language people must speak. “It’s an invaluable resource to remind immigrants of their status as visitors as opposed to contributing members of society even though that is decidedly not the case,” he says.

“English-only laws are about what they have always been about — power.”

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