A project of the Center for Community Change

Governor of Rhode Island needs a refresher course…

… in good public policy 101.

Governor Carcieri’s statements on talk radio — that he doesn’t know “why in God’s name” the state should provide English-language interpreters, at taxpayer expense, “for people who want benefits from us” — sparked angry calls for a retraction and an apology yesterday.

State Democratic Party chairman Bill Lynch called for “a retraction and an apology,” saying: “It’s hard to imagine a governor saying anything more insensitive, or frankly, un-American.” Full story at Providence Journal

First off, pip pip to the local Democratic Party saying something. In other states local democrats won’t stand up for immigrants period. It’s nice to see the local machine getting involved, for whatever reason.

Second,

The Governor continues: “But the point is if they needed somebody…they got somebody, a friend or relative who spoke English, right? So why in God’s name [are] we providing, at taxpayer expense, staff whose sole job is to interpret English for people who apparently have no friend and no relative that can speak English. I don’t think we should be doing that.”

“My grandparents immigrated from Italy. My grandmother didn’t speak English. She learned it…”

Did she really? Any student of history knows that most of the first immigrants that came to the US didn’t often learn English. Many of them relied on children and other interpreters, and lived in areas where they didn’t need to know English at all. PLUS, catholic and other non-governmental relief services often offered programs in the immigrants native language. Throughout much of the US it was understood that folks coming straight from their country would often NOT be able to learn English, and that it benefited ALL OF US, to help them in any language needed.

Third,

The response from the ACLU’s Brown to these GOP arguments: “Why is the state paying money for interpreters? Well, because we hold certain values such as the fact that a person who doesn’t speak English should [not] be sent off to jail because there was nobody there to interpret the court proceedings for them.” And why “single-out” the English-impaired? “Following that logic, why should we have interpreters for hearing-impaired who may apply for benefits?” He asked.

Fourth, and perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY

In his on-air comments about interpreters, Carcieri made no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.

This isn’t about illegal or legal, it’s about all foreign people of color, legal permanent residents, refugees, farmworkers. These people are here, they want to be a part of our community.

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