, Eric Crafton is once more attempting to make English the “official” language of Davidson County. This, despite the fact that English is the de facto means of communication in the entire state of Tennessee.
After our post yesterday,
some folks in the Hispanic, academic and legal communities emailed me to chime in on the debate.
Among them is Gregg Ramos, a U.S. born Mexican-American and partner at the law firm North, Purcell, Ramos and Jameson. Fabian Bedne, president of the Middle TN Hispanic Democrats, and Vanderbilt sociologist Katherine Donato, also reached out to share their opinions.
They all make persuasive arguments against the Crafton effort, but Donato’s is particularly illuminating. She cites census data showing that 20 percent of Tennessee’s foreign-born population speak only English, and that over 40 percent “reported speaking English very well,” while another 23.5 percent speak English “well.” More census data on immigrants and English here.
Donato also points to a 2004 Pew Hispanic Center survey, which states that “the view that immigrants have to learn English is held by a majority of Latinos, regardless of how much money they make or their level of education.”
“These statistics show that many immigrants in Tennessee already know and speak English,” says Donato. “Given that one in five foreign-born persons in Tennessee already only speak English, and of those remaining, the majority speak English well or very well, I cannot understand why anyone would support an English-only referendum.”
See what the others have to say, after the jump…
It is unfortunate that Mr. Crafton is resurrecting this divisive battle that ultimately will benefit no one. There are many things in life for which we do not need yet another law, and an English-only law certainly is at the top of that list. It's just not necessary here in Nashville in 2008. Somehow, Nashville has managed to survive for over 200 years without such a law.
Newly arrived immigrants don't need a law to tell them that they will more effectively overcome the many economic and social barriers they face with a knowledge and command of the English language…. Rather than proposing a largely symbolic but ultimately ineffective law that only serves to make the integration process harder, Mr. Crafton, if he truly wanted to help, should be advocating for more resources to improve and increase the number of English classes for immigrants. Such classes are too scarce and overcrowded at present. They are overcrowded with immigrants who are doing everything possible to learn the English language and to make their lives better in this, the greatest and most accepting country in the world.
We will come together to show that there are many other humane, respectful, dignified and truly Christian ways to assist our immigrant population in the integration process. Mr. Crafton's divisive and ultimately ineffective law, on the other hand, will only serve to polarize our community. It will accomplish nothing tangible.
I am an immigrant. I have lived in the USA for about 18 years. I was raised speaking Spanish and now I communicate in English. Why did I decide to learn English? Was it because it was the law? Not really. I did it for the same reason countless immigrants do it, because we come here to be part of this amazing community, and to be successful you have to do it in English. I don't think anyone who comes here comes not wanting to learn English. But anyone who's ever taken a foreign language class in school should be able to relate to how hard it is….
Will passing this referendum affect immigrants having a hard time learning English, or will it affect the rest of us? I believe that the second is the case. Not only do we need to effectively communicate and be able to get information from all Nashvillians, we also need to continue to show that Nashville is a city that looks forward to foreign investment and new ideas. We all benefited when Nissan moved to town, when international conferences are held here, when international students and researchers come to our universities, and when tourists visit the city. But all new ideas reflect the place they come from. And all the new ideas from Nashville will be better for the input of all the cultures that exist here.
As we reported