FROM north of the border:(AP) -- About 150 people gathered...


June 30, 1994

FROM north of the border:

(AP) -- About 150 people gathered in downtown Wilmington to protest a recently passed bill that makes English the official language of Delaware.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Thomas Carper's signature.

"Are they afraid Delaware is going to become Miami?" asked Luisa Lonza, who emigrated from Argentina 40 years ago. "If they don't want people to speak another language, they shouldn't let them in."

The protest, organized by City Councilman Demetrio Ortega Jr., drew people mostly from the heavily Latino Hilltop area he represents. Ortega said he and other leaders were astonished by how fast the bill, unveiled 1 1/2 months ago, was approved by the General Assembly.

During the protest, marchers sang in Spanish and chanted in English while parading in front of the Carvel State Building beneath Carper's 12th floor office.

Rep. Wayne A. Smith, the bill's sponsor, said the measure is a symbolic measure prompted by his desire to see English as the common denominator of the more than 80 languages spoken in Delaware.

Carper has said he was inclined to sign the bill as long as provisions that appeared to restrict multi-lingual social service offerings were reworked.

Carper spokeswoman Sheri L. Woodruff said Monday the governor still has reservations about the bill and hasn't decided whether he will sign it.


News like that serves as a reminder that Maryland, where English language bills have been floated and floundered in recent years, hasn't cornered the market on demagogic legislators or xenophobic legislation.

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