English-only Bill Sponsor Accused of Racism

By Terry Keleher Apr 10, 2007

(A real sign in Philly restaurant) Testifying before Nevada’s Government Affairs Committee last Friday, critics called an English-only bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Beer, R-La Vegas, a racist proposal. The bill will make English the official language in Nevada. "Your proposal is racist in intent and is being proposed to divide Nevadans at the cost of the rights of Hispanic Nevadans," said Rene Cantu of the Latin Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, adding that Latinos make up one fourth to one third of the state’s population. "You’re not Hispanic and you apparently don’t understand what the Hispanics are up against in this community," testified John Mendoza, a long-time public servant who has served as a judge and district attorney. It sure is refreshing when people are willing to speak the truth. English-only measures are just one of dozens of anti-immigrant proposals moving through policymaking arenas at all levels of government. Rhode Island alone, at last count, has 28 mean-spirited bills moving through the state legislature, mostly aimed at punishing and stripping away rights of undocumented immigrants. Sadly, it’s politically popular for lawmakers to seize the public’s heightened anxieties over national security as a convenient justification for xenophobic policy proposals that scapegoat new immigrants of color. You don’t hear too much about building walls and beefing up military patrols at our northern border. And you seldom read about early morning raids targeted at European immigrants. If not for racism, why the double standards? But more to the point, why is it so refreshing, but rare, to hear this anti-immigrant sentiment called out for what it is—blatant racism? Even progressive organizations who support immigrant rights are reluctant to point out the racism they clearly see. What holds us back from speaking the truth? What do we gain and what do we lose by doing this?