SPLC Advising Local Hispanic Group

David Clemons, The Reporter (Albertville, Alabama), May 5, 2009

A civil rights group is working with local Hispanic residents who want bilingual signs for Albertville businesses.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is “serving in an advisory capacity” to La Voz de la Comunidad, according to Jose Cardenas.

Cardenas is an outreach paralegal for SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. He released the statement Thursday that said members of the group–whose name translates to the Voice of the Community–want businesses in Albertville to put Spanish on their English-language signs.

The proposal answers Mayor Lindsey Lyons’ plan to require English translations on Spanish signs. The mayor cited “public safety” issues in the plan he suggested when he was running for City Council last year.

The Montgomery-based SPLC monitors what it calls “hate groups” and works to teach tolerance.

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Albertville is mentioned for the 2006 shootings of windows in businesses owned by Mexican or Guatemalan immigrants. Police at the time said the shootings may not have been related to race because a senior center bus and a business not related to Hispanics were victims of similar crimes.

SPLC did not list any hate groups in Marshall County on its list of such things for the state.

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Aylene Sepulveda, who attends Albertville City Council meetings as much as anybody, is a member of La Voz. She said SPLC is acting as attorneys for La Voz.

Sepulveda said she reached out to SPLC, not the other way around.

She admitted to me Monday that she doesn’t expect the requirement of Spanish on English signs to pass.

Sepulveda said she just wants more understanding for Albertville’s Hispanic residents.

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The mayor of Albertville, Alabama, wants to require all local businesses with signs in Spanish to include English, saying it is a matter of public safety.

Mayor Lindsey Lyons, whose proposal to amend the city’s sign laws has been questioned by some Hispanics, said Monday it could take longer for officers who don’t read Spanish to answer a 911 call at a business if the sign is in Spanish. He said many of the businesses downtown are Hispanic and have such signs.

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If the city adopts the mayor’s proposal, Sepulveda [Aylene Sepulveda, a leader of a newly formed Hispanic group] said, the city should also require all English signs to include Spanish translations.

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Lyons called Sepulveda’s suggestion to make all signs in both English and Spanish “ludicrous.”

“Does she mean we’re living in Mexico?” he asked. “This is not Mexico or any other Latin American country. It’s the United States of America the last time I looked.”

Albertville, a town of some 20,000 that is about 20 percent Hispanic, has 52 registered businesses operated by Hispanics, Sepulveda said. She said many of them could be hurt if relations between city government and the Hispanic community does not improve.

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