This Latina’s Crime? Not Speaking English. [VIDEO]

By Guest Columnist Oct 26, 2009

by Yasmine Farhang When Ernestina Mondragon rushed out of her house in Dallas, Texas to drive her daughter to school, she was pulled over by officer Gary Bromley and ticketed on two counts she could understand – driving without a license and taking a wrongful U-Turn, and a third which is making waves this morning – for not speaking English. Watch the local news report (via Wonk Room): As we react with shock that Montragon was wrongfully ticketed for, in essence, being a non-English proficient immigrant (the only existing laws in Texas that deal with non English proficiency are for commercial and taxi drivers, not for private drivers), it is critical to remember the history of language regulation of immigrants in the United States. In 1751, Benjamin Franklin said of the Pennsylvania Germans continued usage of German:

“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”

Just as the Germans, who were considered then to be a racial group distinct from the English majority, were attacked for their “language and customs,” the English-only nativists continue to use the same arguments toward Latinos in the U.S. And while there are hundreds of language used in the U.S. today, it is select ones — and select speakers — that are targeted. For this reason, we cannot be fooled by the claim that there are simply talking about “language.” Rather, we must see through this to the core of what is at stake — the assault on the rights of the people who speak the languages, and today we see this in the assault on immigrants of color.