Monday, April 23, 2012
Is It Illegal To Speak Your Native Language?
The United States Supreme Court will be hearing arguments this week over Arizona's cruel immigration law that tries to outdo the restrictive Federal Immigration Laws. Arizona now allows police to detain and question "those who are suspected of lacking immigration documents." Really? Should we carry passports with us at all times to prove who we are?
Several other states have similar harsh measures. The ridiculous burden placed on law enforcement and the judiciary when statutes like those enacted in those states criminalize a person’s inability to establish his or her immigration status upon demand. Lock them up! One of the issues that police are told to look out for is the use of a foreign language by the "suspect."
I live in California. When California broke away from Mexico to establish its independence the first official language of the California Republic was Spanish, as 99 percent of the citizens spoke that language. The State flag still claims that California is a Republic. The ensuing first state constitution made Spanish an official language. There have been Spanish speaking families in California since before the American revolution 3000 miles away on the other side of the continent.
In New Mexico, on the other side of the restrictive law state of Arizona there have been communities that have spoken Spanish even longer than the communities in California. In many families with five and six generations of US born citizens as their members, speaking Spanish is their culture and heritage, just like the Cajuns of Louisiana speak their own brand of English or French in their homes.
Being hassled by the police because you might have brown skin and prefer to speak in Spanish is a gross injustice and a horrible invasion of personal privacy. I have been told that many of the police in Arizona refuse to enforce their insane laws that have "One and only One purpose in mind." That is to harass people of Mexican descent.
About a third of the people in California are of Mexican or mixed descent and almost all of them (90%) were born in this country. They represent not only people of Spanish language and culture, but they represent a large body of American Indians (Amerinds) who have a far longer heritage and claim to this continent. They are a beautiful people that I am glad to call neighbors and friends.
I speak Spanish. It is a beautiful language with a long history of fantastic songs and poetry that I totally love. In the future, I am going to only use Spanish if I am pulled over in a Traffic Stop. I strongly recommend that anybody who can speak Spanish do the same. Do this from Coast to Coast in North America. "Lo siento mucho. Yo no hablo Inglés." (I am very sorry. I do not speak English.)
It is time to honor a beautiful language that has a long history in over a third of this great land of ours. Join me.