On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council unanimously approved a one-yea pilot program, proposed by Councilman Jordan Brandman, to provide translation services for Spanish-speakers addressing the city council. When a someone wishes to address the council in Spanish, councilmembers will do headphones, like at the United Nations.
Cost isn’t really an issue; the program will cost only $5,000 because a city staffer will be used rather than an outside vendor (depriving the OCEA/AMEA of an opportunity to rail against outsourcing).
From my perspective, this is an instance of good intentions gone awry. In an admittedly small way, this is an example of government retarding assimilation and lessening the incentive for immigrants to learn English. It creates one more instance in which an immigrant resident does not need command of the English language in order to participate in society, which ultimately is not doing them any favor.
There is no anti-Latino sentiment in my opinion, because I do not have an anti-Latino or nativist bone in my body. I have always been strongly pro-immigration. I think it is good for America. I think the best solution to illegal immigration are simple and liberalized immigration laws permit a much freer flow of labor and talent across our borders. I support some form of the Dream Act and think common sense and sound public policy call for reforms that open a pathway to legal residency (and ultimately citizenship) for the millions who are here illegally.
But the flip-side of a liberalized immigration policy is promoting assimilation into American civic culture — and that entails acquiring fluency in English.
Councilwoman Lucille Kring stated that in her experience, relatively few people have used a translator (and if anyone who wants o use one ought to be free to bring one). However, the city shouldn’t proactively supply one.
In all likelihood, the new translation service will not be frequently utilized — and if so, this will be a largely symbolic action. But symbolism is important, and the underlying good intentions aside, the symbolism here is on the wrong kind.