Patrick McGee, Star-Telegram (Fort Worth), October 7, 2008
The City Council voted Tuesday night not to change the practice of translating documents into Spanish, and a motion to make English the city’s official language failed to get a second.
The move dashed Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Lathan Watts’ hopes to promote the use of English, the language that he said is a pillar of American unity and identity.
It was standing room only in the council chamber as both sides of the debate invoked God and country. One side asserted that a common language is needed to unify the nation, and the other said imposing one language would just divide it.
Mayor Gene Carey said he did not want to embroil his city in the immigration debates that a neighboring community has experienced since declaring English its official language and trying to ban illegal immigrants from renting apartments in the city.
He stressed that the city spends only $475.60 on document translation annually. By contrast, the city’s operating budget is nearly $100 million, city spokesman James Kunke said.
Watts, who proposed the English-only resolution, said the move was largely symbolic but emphasized that English has a critical place in American life.
“One of the things that allows that melting pot to melt together is common language. Without it we’re not a melting pot, we’re stir-fry, basically,” Watts said. He pointed out that all American founding documents and great speeches were written in English.
“Symbols matter. These flags behind me are just colored pieces of cloth but for what they symbolize,” he said, pointing to the American and Texas flags.
Hispanics and English
Last month, Farmers Branch’s opponents argued before a federal judge that the city’s English-language resolution shows how the city’s anti-illegal-immigration efforts are really anti-Hispanic. City leaders have repeatedly denied that accusation.