Bigoted or American?
Asked by a caller why the state needs interpreters in the courts and other state agencies, Carcieri said: “Amen to you, buddy.”
In the hunt for expendable jobs, Carcieri said he found one department with eight Spanish-speaking interpreters, and “I said why are we, at taxpayer expense, providing interpreters for people who want benefits from us? It seems completely illogical to me because you’re right,” he told the caller. “My grandparents immigrated from Italy. My grandmother didn’t speak English. She learned it…”
“But the point is if they needed somebody … they got somebody, a friend or relative who spoke English, right?
This afternoon, Chair of the Rhode Island Democrat Party issued a press release responding to those comments:
Rhode Island Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch is demanding an immediate retraction and apology from Gov. Don Carcieri today after a comment he made Wednesday on a local talk radio call-in program provided insight as to his opinion of people who are not fluent in English. …
“Don Carcieri was elected to be the governor of all Rhode Islanders, not just the people who look and speak as he does. Is the governor really saying that Rhode Island citizens should be denied certain rights and benefits simply because they may have a difficult time understanding English? That’s simply outrageous, and I’m calling on the governor to immediately retract his hurtful remarks and issue an apology,” Lynch said.
The Governor accurately described what was until recently the universal, self-sufficient approach of all non-speaking immigrants to America (and which, it should be noted, many immigrants still take today). Translators were not provided at government expense. If a translator was needed, a family member or neighbor stepped in. It is, therefore, a little puzzling to have Mr. Lynch describe as un-American what has unquestionably been a very American experience.
Thanks to Tim Staskiewicz, producer of the Helen Glover Show, for alerting us to the audio available at WHJJ’s website. It includes the question and answer between Buddy of Johnston and Governor Carcieri that provoked the Chair of the RI Democrat Party to request an apology of the Governor.
Specific to the question of court interpreters, which is not what the Governor and Buddy were discussing, I concur that this is one of the services which a just and civilized government should provide to immigrants, both documented and undocumented. And probably most people could be persuaded of that, also.
We would be persuaded reluctantly, however. Part of the source of the exasperation and even anger for which Mr. Lynch has become the focus is that the list of government services and accommodations provided to undocumented immigrants is too long, costly and completely unmatched in any other country. These include social programs, Medicaid and education, for which it is now becoming clear there are costs on multiple fronts.
So we add up in our heads these billions of tax dollars. We observe the haphazard, sometimes non-existent, efforts by our government to control our borders and enforce our immigration laws. We cogitate with some disdain the not so public-spirited motives behind these tepid enforcement efforts. And that is how government paid translation services, which should be a priority, instead become the last straw.
UPDATE II – more audio
On Friday morning, Governor Carcieri called WPRO’s John Depetro Show and declined once again to apologize.
Also Friday morning, Mr. Lynch called WHJJ’s Helen Glover Show for a … chat.