Do not get me wrong, I am against Arizona Immigration Law SB1070. As far as I am concerned it gives cops an open season on harassing people of color. Because they would never stop me. Yet on various occasions through the years, I will admit to having been less than legal. A few years ago, my son was dating a girl whose parents came from the Dominican Republic. Frequently when they were out, she would be asked where she was from. To which she would reply, “Cranston.” They of course would ignorantly press on with wanting to know where she was from originally. To which she would reply, “Well, I was born at Women and Infants in Providence.” At this point, my son would go into a tirade about why they didn’t ask HIM that question. After all, he had only been in this country a few years – was it because he was white? How did they know he was not some illegal who had slipped over the border from Canada. So we have strong feelings on this whole subject in my household. But I have one real sore point.

If you relocate to any other country in the world, you learn to speak the language. But not here. As a matter of fact, you are almost encouraged not to even bother. We need to make English the official language of this country – with no other options! No more “for Spanish, press two” crap. I had a secretary many years ago who came from Portugal. She used to go on about this. She said her parents sat them down in front of a TV set until they spoke English. Same sort of story from all my Italian friends. Rule number one was that if you want to get ahead you start speaking English. And you learn fast and you do it as clearly as possible. I was in a waiting room recently and a woman had a very cute toddler. He came up to me and wanted to show me his book. Well, he was rather irresistible so I started to talk to him. I even offered to read to him. His mother said to me, “He doesn’t speak any English.” Well, her English was flawless. But at home they only spoke Spanish. I wanted to shake her and ask her what she thought she was doing to her child.

And what has me off on this tirade? I had to call the Department of Labor and Training today. First of all, I started calling at 9 a.m. Dial. Busy. Redial. Busy. Again and again until 3:28 p.m. That is how I spent my whole day. I went through three phone batteries. And when I got through, I spent a further 45 minutes on hold. Finally, a person. Great! No, not so great. I could barely understand her. If you are going to be dealing with the public, on the phone, not only should you speak English, you should speak it clearly – and you should be able to understand what I am saying, which she didn’t. If you were born here, and your parents had been for three generations back, and you did not have a clear speaking voice, I would not give you a job that had you speaking on the phone all day. And why just Spanish? I worked in a government office. And if someone came in who spoke Chinese – and that happened frequently, it was a city with a large Chinese community – they brought someone with them who spoke Chinese. It was pretty well known in their communities, that we happened to have someone who spoke Armenian and a couple of people who spoke Italian, so they would frequently risk coming on their own. But every other group would bring a translator or at least with a cell phone they would hand to us with someone on the other end who could facilitate the transaction. Unless they spoke only Spanish. Not only would they not bring someone with them, they would be irate that we had no one who spoke Spanish. And on more than one occasion, I will swear on a stack of bibles, they spoke a lot more English than they let on. It was like it was a matter of principal.

So as an immigrant myself, I am all in favor of fair immigration policies and against those with the clear intent to harass, like Arizona’s. But I am strongly in favor of making English our official and only language (the Native American option ship having sailed).

Published by Kate Eileen Shannon

Artist, Crafter, Writer, purveyor of ephemera and bagatelle

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