Controversial bid over official language sparks debate

WESTMINSTER, Md. - The sign says ‘Welcome to Carroll County', but there's a good chance you may not ‘feel right at home', if you don't speak English.

"A friend of mine went to McDonald's yesterday and tried to order food and the lady was Spanish-speaking and totally messed up the whole order and didn't understand what she was saying," said Amy Baker of Manchester.

"I think everybody should learn it," added Jason Sandoval of Finksburg, "You're here.  You might as well learn it, right?"

At the county seat in Westminster, you'll find bilingual postings from the state in both English and Spanish, but if one Carroll county commissioner gets his way, the could would conduct all of its official business in English.

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, Jr. says his reason for proposing the new ordinance is two-fold.

"To encourage assimilation as wave after wave of immigrants have done throughout our history, and secondly it prevents Carroll County from being in a position where it has to start expending costs to be bilingual or multi-lingual or whatever the case may be."

Shoemaker says 31 states have passed similar measures, as well as two counties here in Maryland, yet the proposal has prompted criticism from opponents.
"Some folks are accusing us of having hidden white hoods, bigotry and that sort of thing, and the fact is nothing could be further from the truth.  What we're trying to encourage is assimilation.  We're all the melting pot.  This is the United States of America.  That's the objective."

The public has been invited to speak out on the proposed ordinance on Thursday before the Board of County Commissioners' weekly meeting in Westminster.

There's been no word on whether that public comment must be in English.

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