A decision by the Twin Cities suburb of Lino Lakes to make English its official language is under attack for its perceived hostility towards immigrants to the US. Suspicions of an anti-immigrant agenda seem to be underlined by revelations that the city’s resolution was written with the help of Virginia-based Pro-English, an organization with the stated goal of making English the official language of the American government.
Minnesota Public Radio reports that Pro-English was founded by John Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist whose strong anti-immigration stance extends even to bans
on legal immigration. It is noteworthy that another Tanton-affiliated outfit, Numbers USA, was partly credited with the failure of the passage of the 2007 comprehensive immigration bill. Another of his organizations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
City council member Dave Roeser, who pushed the ordinance, reacted with surprise to the revelations. “I’m just shocked that this organization would have any ties to anybody like that,” Roeser said. “It’s news to me. And this had nothing to do with immigration. If anything, I’m in favor of immigration. I’m the offspring of immigrants myself.”
The reactions of the Lino Lakes residents who support the resolution have shown a discomfiting intolerance, as this interview with KARE 11 shows: “I’m tired of going to restaurants and hearing all the new families not speaking English. They speak whatever the native tongue is to their kids, and there doesn’t seem to be any teaching the young kids in their families English!”
It hardly helps matters that the council’s defense is based on the notion that the ordinance would lead to future cost savings. For comparison, MPR shows that St. Paul, with more that 280,000 people, spent $3,700 on both translation and deaf services last year. Lino Lakes, with only 19,000 people, is unlikely to spend anything substantial.