Frederick County, where massive growth in the past decade has been driven by Asians and Hispanics, passed an ordinance yesterday making English the official language of the county. The county commission vote was 4 to 1.
“It sets the tone,” Commissioners President Blaine Young said, according to the Frederick News-Post. “I do not see what the big deal is.”
Others speaking at the meeting last night did see a big deal.
“I’m really embarrassed that we have to go through this tonight,” Urbana resident Nick Carrera said. “It’s a measure that’s nasty and small-minded. ... It would brand Frederick County as being unfriendly and xenophobic.”
Frederick already had passed a resolution identifying English as the official language, but it was nonbinding, according to the News-Post. This ordinance making English the official language is on-the-books law — or, as County Attorney John Mathias put it in a memo, a “more formal, solemn action stating a continuing requirement.”
This is what the ordinance says: “The use of a common language removes barriers of misunderstanding and helps to unify the people of Frederick County, the state and the United States, and helps to enable the full economic and civic participation of all its citizens, regardless of national origin, creed, race or other characteristics, and thus a compelling governmental interest exists in promoting, preserving and strengthening the use of the English language.”
This is what the ordinance means: Official county documents and business will be written and conducted in English, but matters of public safety can still be conducted in other languages.
Frederick’s move comes at a time when white population growth in the county is being outstripped by minorities.
A year ago, when new census figures emerged, I reported that Frederick County had grown 20 percent from 2000 to 2010. “The multiracial population has spiked more than 124 percent in the past 10 years,” I wrote. “The black population increased 60 percent. Whites increased by about 6 percent.”
I also noted that the county has taken a hard line on illegal immigration. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins participates in a controversial federal program that deputizes local officers to enforce immigration laws.
Now Frederick has become the first county in Maryland to make English its official language.
The English-as-official-language movement has been percolating around the country in recent years, in large part pushed by the group ProEnglish, which says it works through “the courts and in the court of public opinion to defend English’s historic role as America’s common, unifying language, and to persuade lawmakers to adopt English as the official language at all levels of government.”
The News-Post reported that county’s ordinance “mimics one drafted by ProEnglish.”
What do you think of this movement? Do you agree with Frederick’s effort?