Politics

Two Maryland Council Members Working To Repeal 'English Only' Law Because It's Bad For Business

| by Alexander Rubinstein

Two council members in Frederick County, Maryland, are trying to repeal a 2012 ordinance that requires all official business in the county to be conducted in English.

Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer say the ordinance is ineffective, sends a message of intolerance and is bad for business. The women say that the ordinance should be dropped to create a more welcoming environment for new employers and residents in the county. They introduced a bill to repeal he ordinance earlier this week, The Frederick News-Post reports.

Fitzwater says local and federal laws require important documents to be available in languages besides English. Therefore, the 2012 ordinance didn’t change anything. “This ordinance accomplished nothing of material substance, Fitzwater said. “It has, however, had a profound impact on how Frederick County is perceived by those around us, including local and national media as well as the broader business community.”

According to 2010 census data, 5.8 percent of the population of Frederick is Asian American and 14.4 percent is Hispanic or Latino. Hispanics are the fastest growing race group in the city and county.

Housing in Frederick is more expensive than the national average, which may be because Frederick is a growing commuter suburb of Washington, D.C.

The language of the bill emphasized the English-only mandate is unattractive to business.

The Frederick County Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of its largest employers and found nearly all of them supported repealing the ordinance, according to a correspondence from the chamber.

Jorge Ribas, the president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said that learning English is vital, but county sponsorship of monolingualism is a bad economic decision.

“We all speak English in our chamber,” Ribas said. “We’re all for English, but I think mono-literacy is the worst thing that can happen to the United States in a global economy.”

Maria Shuck, a director of Centro Hispano, a Frederick-based group that offers assistance to residents that aren’t English speakers, said that the repealing the bill won’t affect the people she works with as an interpreter at Frederick Memorial Hospital. “I think the impact will be more significant (for) businesses and the future of Frederick as a welcoming community.

Councilman Billy Shreve doesn’t think the law should be modified, rather than repealed.

“It protects the county and says we only have to create documents in English. ... It’s just to say, ‘This is what we do. If you want anything else, you have to provide it yourself,'" the councilman said. "The existing document is much more comprehensive and has protections for the citizens."

The Frederick Immigration Coalition and Asian American Center of Frederick attended Fitzwater’s news conference for the bill.

Sources: The Frederick News-Post, Wikipedia

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons