August 23, 2012 11:39 am ET - by Salvatore Colleluori
Two weeks ago, the anti-immigrant organization IIImpact held a two day conference in Wilmington, North Carolina to discuss the presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States and what immigration policies North Carolina politicians should pursue. The conference hosted many anti-immigrant voices, including Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) President William Gheen and Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County, North Carolina as well as both North Carolina State and Federal legislators. One of those politicians in attendance was Republican State Senator Thom Goolsby. During his session with ALIPAC's Gheen and Sheriff Page, Goolsby — who is up for re-election this year — attacked the practice of hiring court interpreters for undocumented immigrants who are involved in court proceedings and claimed we know who the non-citizens are "because they can't speak English."
GOOLSBY: Well Curtis, I go into court every day and we have all our court documents now printed in Spanish. I mean, explain that to me. I mean, as we talked about earlier when I did my session, I mean, to get a — to be a U.S. citizen, as Jude was telling us earlier, her husband from Brazil, he had to take a test in English and give answers in English. You have to speak English in order to become a citizen of this country. We have court documents every day, we have court interpreters that you spend hundred — millions of dollars a year to hire, for illegals to come into court, to plead guilty, to be found guilty to maybe be put in jail or not. And that's it, I mean they're done, they touched the court system, we know they're illegal because they can't speak English. And they go to jail, or they don't, or they get put on probation, and they're done. As the Sheriff says, he arrests them; he contacts ICE, Sheriff, what happens most of the time? ICE does nothing. They're released on bond or whatever else and they never get touched again until they break the law again, then it happens over again, and then that's it, and they stay here, and they stay here and they stay here. Period. Until they do something really bad and then they commit a Federal crime and then maybe they'll — maybe they'll take them out of the country.
Goolsby's comments reveal his lack of understanding for the necessity of offering alternative language services. Over 55 million people in the United States currently speak a language other than English at home. These also aren't just Spanish speakers, as the percentages of those speaking French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean has also grown since the 1980's as new immigrants enter the United States. Despite Goolsby's contentions, many of these non-native English speakers are legal residents and citizens of the United States.
The inability of some to understand English prompted former President Bill Clinton to issue an executive order which improved the ability for non-English speakers to obtain access to federal programs. This ensured that those who could not speak English were able to receive equal access to Federal benefits no matter their national origin.
Copyright © 2010 Media Matters Action Network. All rights reserved.