A councilman wants to make English the official language of Anne Arundel County, saying voters asked him for this.
While campaigning for his council seat, Councilman Jerry Walker (R-7th District) said illegal immigration was a hot topic among his constituents. The bill he presented to the council on Monday was in part the realization of a campaign promise, he said.
“There was overwhelmingly positive response [to that], so I turned it into a campaign commitment,” Walker said.
Bill 13-12 would make English the official language of Anne Arundel County for all official documents, communications and agreements on behalf of the county.
Walker said he has another resolution planned to address illegal immigration by penalizing business owners who hire illegal workers.
“It would permit the county to remove a business owner’s license if that business owner is found to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants,” Walker said.
Walker’s bill is backed by three other Republican members of the County Council, but Councilmen Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) and Chris Trumbauer (D-6th District) both said on Monday that they oppose the bill.
“I’m not a fan of it,” Trumbauer said. “I don’t see the need for it.”
Trumbauer added that even if the bill passed, it wouldn’t stop him from helping his constituents who don’t speak English as their primary language. He said he thought it was counterproductive to not engage with that community.
Benoit called the bill a “symbolic vote,” and said he expected some lively discussion when the public hearing for the bill occurs on March 5.
Walker’s sponsors are Dick Ladd (R-5th District), John Grasso (R-2nd District) and Derek Fink (R-3rd District).
Grasso was vocal about his support of the bill, saying that if immigrants wanted to participate in the county, they needed to learn English.
“Guess what? You came to America, and the official language is English, and you will blend with everybody else. We’re not going to change our world to suit you. You will learn to suit to the country,” Grasso said.
The council traditionally has seven members, but it is still missing one representative after former Councilman Daryl Jones’ 1st District seat was vacated by a new resolution passed in January, a few days before he was set to begin serving his sentence in federal prison for tax evasion.
However, Benoit said he was confident that by the time this bill will be voted on, they will have someone in the 1st District's seat.
The bill is set to go to public hearing at the council's March 5 meeting, where it will also face its first vote.