An Eyewitness Account: Senator Chris Harris Did Not Speak in a Derogatory Manner; How the Liberal Media Spins the Truth

I have read several comments back and forth about the situation which occurred during a Texas Transportation and Homeland Security hearing on Monday June 13, in the Capitol regarding SB9, the sanctuary cities bill.

I have decided to go ahead and speak my side since I was there. Not only was I present, but I can remember clearly how this situation happened, and I also have reviewed the video of the situation.

You can see the whole video here

Mr. Aguirre came to sit down to give his testimony and he said in English “Hi, well I have a translator” and he began speaking in Spanish like many other testifiers with interpreters had done that day.

Mr. Antolin Aguirre introduced himself as representing the “Austin Immigrants’ Rights Coalition”.

He went ahead and explained that one of the things that impressed him when he came to the USA back in 1988 was that this country says “In God we Trust” and then he went on saying why he was against SB9.

I am bilingual and also an interpreter, and one of the things that interpreters have to do when they translate is instruct the person who is talking that he needs to stop every two sentences so the interpreter can interpret the message correctly and accurately. In this situation Mr. Aguirre and the interpreter had not “rehearsed’ how they would do so. Mr. Aguirre spoke several sentences before pausing which made it difficult for the interpreter to translate the complete sentences and there was some obvious frustration from the interpreter and for others trying to listen to his testimony.

After two minutes, the interpreter tried to translate, but got frustrated and said in English “That was too long”. It was during this awkward moment that Senator Harris used to ask a genuine question, not to interrupt, but to ask:

“Do I understand correctly that he has been here since 1988?”

 The interpreter said: "He came to this country in 1988", and Mr. Aguirre himself responded in English: “Yes sir, that is correct”. 

He asked to Aguirre: “Why are you not speaking in English then?

The man said “I speak English but… Sen. Harris said: "You have been here for 23 years?”

Mr. Aguirre responded “around 20 years”.

He turned to the lady at his side to ask for approval when people around him said to Mr. Aguirre: "Dilo en Español”. ("Say it in Spanish.")

Mr. Aguirre wanted to respond in English but the people around him did not allow him to do so and the interpreter insisted for him to say it in Spanish.

He said “what happens is that I know the language but I prefer Spanish, because it’s my first time, to speak through an interpreter.”

The Senator Harris replied: “It is insulting to us! It’s very insulting. If he knows English, he needs to be speaking in English!”

Around him I heard the voices of several people in Spanish with divided opinions:

“El necesita hablar en ingles para testificar”. – ("He needs to speak in English to testify".) and others saying: “No, que lo diga en Español!”- ("No he needs to say it in Spanish!")

All this divided opinion chatting was heard right then, and Mr. Aguirre hesitated as to whether he should go ahead and speak in English or not.

I believe Mr. Aguirre felt the pressure of many that he needed to speak in Spanish although he is a man who speaks English as a second language and his English seems to be fairly good. As an immigrant who also speaks Spanish as my first language, I understand the hesitation of this man to testify in English since he knows that if he came to the USA as an adult with no previous dominance of the English language, most likely he probably has a heavy accent and some grammatical errors.

I know the feeling of people frowning upon you when you have a heavy accent and maybe some people look down to you for not speaking well enough, but I also know that English is the language of this country and we need to do our best to try to speak it well so people can see how much we love this country. If Mr. Aguirre had spoken in English, I believe no one would have criticized him because he was at least trying to speak the language of this country and also would have communicated his message with more authenticity and from his heart. It does not matter which side of the issue you take on this bill, but the fact that speaking in English when your audience speaks English is important.

I will never be able to get rid of my accent, and those who know me well know that I work hard in some pronunciation of words and on my grammar. But I speak in English to the American people who speak English only because that is the language of this land, MY country, the United States of America.

As a speaker and communicator, I have many situations in which I speak in Spanish because the majority of my audience members are Spanish speakers (Spanish TV, radio, and media). At some places, I have seen the need to to use Spanish to a person who speaks in Spanish to make a point. I can also use Spanish to speak about important issues so that the Spanish media can pass the information along to the Spanish community. I have chosen to speak one or more phrases in Spanish during some of my speeches because I wanted to show that we Conservatives are embracing Latinos and that's important.

There are a lot of Americans who still read and prefer getting the news and information in Spanish. I understand that. But in the case of Mr. Aguirre, before this small group of Senators, he should have apologized and tried to continue in English to make his point.

I believe Senator Harris asked a genuine question and he was on the right to ask that question due to the fact that Mr. Aguirre spoke English and said he has been here over 20 years. I agree that it can be insulting to speak with an interpreter when you know the language. Most of all I believe that if you have lived in this country for so many years you need to speak the language of the country and especially if you are representing an organization called “Austin Immigration Rights Coalition”.

I spoke with Senator Harris that day and several people came to him to let him know they were supportive of him questioning Mr. Aguirre as to why he was not speaking in English if he is able to speak English. The Democrats are trying to use this situation to attack the Republican Party and make false accusations about the character of the senator and other Republicans. This is not the case at all. Senator Harris is a very kind man he has always been kind to me and to others.

Almost two years ago I was invited to give the Pledge of Alliance to the American Flag during the Denton County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner. Although I am a professional speaker and have been on hundreds of stages before thousands of people during my lifetime, I was nervous on this special occasion.

It was because it was the very first time in my life that I was asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the American Flag at such an important event, knowing that I am a naturalized American Citizen and I have an accent.

Right before I gave the Pledge, a lady sang the National Anthem and by her side a beautiful lady, Lisa Smith, who has Down Syndrome translated the National Anthem to sign language. I was so touched and my heart filled with a lot of emotion. I could not hold my emotion, and I began to cry right there just as Mark Davis introduced me and called me up on stage to lead the people in the Pledge to the American Flag. I was sobbing and full of tears. Someone behind me handed me a handkerchief to wipe my tears and whisper to me that I would do fine: It was Senator Chris Harris.

I wiped my tears quickly, and I went on the stage standing at attention facing the flag of United States of America with my right hand over my heart and asked the people there to repeat after me: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." And I proudly did it, with my Spanish Accent.

After I finished, Sen. Chirs Harris came up on the stage to give allegiance to the Texas flag.

Senator Harris is an American legislator who loves his state, his country and he has been very helpful with our transportation infrastructure, lowering the cost of electricity for consumers, and passing legislation that provides necessary child support enforcement tools. I strongly disagree with those who have distorted the truth regarding this incident by exaggerating the situation. You needed to be there to understand what was happening and as I said, I was there.

Comments

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Reading this recounting of the testimony, the only thing that is clear, is that this is conservative view point of the event.  I have no doubt that Senator Harris is a decent and kind man, but speaking as someone whose first language is Spanish, I can understand how the witness would prefer testimony in their first language.  After all, he was before an official body of his adopted country, he was nervous, and he probably did not want to struggle with the inevitable effort of trying to find the right words to express himself.  Senator Harris' assertion that "it was an insult" was insulting and he should apologize.  

thats all fine and dandy but tell me-Where in American government can someone be forced to speak what somebody wants them to speak? Sen Harris violated this mans civil rights. The GOP are hipocritical on their platform because SB9 is an example of govt overreach. In this country we have freedom of choice and speech. This man CHOSE as an American to testify in Spanish using freedom of choice. Its also embarrassing to see people of our own community turn against us when we need help not division. Glad I am not a tio taco. -Alex Ruiz, libertarianl
 

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