Frederick County declares English as official language

(Courtesy: Frederick County Government)

Frederick County officials voted on an ordinance to make English the official language of Frederick County government. It is the first county in Maryland to do so.

Tuesday night a public hearing was held at Winchester Hall in Frederick.

Resident after resident took to the podium railing on the Frederick County Board of Commissioners proposal.

"It looks like pure anti-immigrant posturing," said one person.

"I think this measure is nasty and small-minded," said another.

Some 20 people described the ordinance as hateful, ethically wrong and unwelcoming toward Hispanics.

"Why would you purposely alienate members of your own community," said a person.

Despite the disgust displayed during the public hearing, commissioners approved the proposal, meaning all county business communication and materials will be conducted in English.

Board President Blaine Young says it would help deter illegal immigrants from settling in Frederick County.

"We are saying English is our official language, embrace it," Young said. "It is the language of the land."

Young says other languages, namely Spanish, can be spoken in events of public health or safety, but not for official business.

"We are not going to spend taxpayer dollars to produce other documents in other languages except English," Young said.

The proposal had many supporters.

"I think it's a good idea. Why, because that is what everybody speaks right."

Suzanne Bibby with ProEnglish says the message this sends to potential Hispanic business leaders when it comes to opportunities in Frederick is unfounded.

"It's a common opposition claim that it will deter businesses, scare them away from the county, but it has never really proved true," Bibby said.

Bibby was just one of two people testifying in support of the ordinance. Neither she or the other supporter lived in Frederick.

Rosie Tarrillo is proud of her English, but the Peruvian immigrant wonders about the impact of the legislation on other immigrants.

"Give opportunities to everyone," Tarrillo said. Some people don't know English or don't know much and have to have a little bit of help in their own language, she said.

There are so many exceptions that opponents say nothing will be gained by passing the measure.

For example, other languages could be used to protect public health and public safety; to protect the rights of criminal defendants; and to promote trade and tourism.

The county commissioners proclaimed English the county's official language in 2008. Proponents say an ordinance would have more staying power.