Jones echoing local English-only effort

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2008

By Staff
County commissioner ‘applauds’ initiative
Staff Writer
A local effort to establish English as the language of the land is being echoed in the halls of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones is cosponsoring a bill introduced by Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y., that would repeal President Bill Clinton’s executive order that requires federal agencies to help clients with the English language. Jones represents North Carolina’s Third Congressional District, which includes Beaufort County.
The total national cost of implementing the order is estimated to be between $1 billion and $2 billion annually, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
The order, issued Aug. 11, 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton, requires all federal agencies and recipients of federal funds to provide translations of documents and interpreters for people with limited proficiency in English.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson, who is spearheading the local initiative to stem the tide of illegal immigrants, said Monday he “applauds” Jones in his efforts to repeal Clinton’s order. Commissioners, led by Richardson and Commissioner Stan Deatherage, voted 4-3 to remove foreign-language options from all county telephone systems at their regular meeting Feb. 4. Board Chairman Jay McRoy and commissioners Al Klemm, Stan Deatherage and Richardson, all Republicans, voted in favor of the measure. Commissioners Jerry Langley, Ed Booth and Robert Cayton, all Democrats, voted in opposition.
Richardson said the immigration issue is a problem made up of “myriad things” of which language is only one.
Deatherage and Richardson are trying to prevent illegal aliens from receiving services and benefits paid for with taxpayer dollars. The epicenter of that issue has for months centered on services available at the Beaufort County Health Department. The health department removed the Spanish-language option from its phone system immediately following the commissioner’s vote but have since reactivated it, according to Beaufort County Health Director Roxanne Holloman.
In the statement from Jones’ office, he contends that Clinton’s order “effectively made the inability to speak English a protected civil right, yet the order has no basis in law.”
Attacking the issue from another angle, commissioners also voted Feb. 4 to approve a resolution calling on the State Board of Elections to verify that each person who registered to vote since January 2004 is a citizen of the United States.
Commissioners consulted with attorney Michael Hethmon on how to approach the issue of illegal immigration on a local level. Asked what might be the board’s next maneuver, Richardson said “we’re going to move forward very easy with these things.”