Texas State Senator Angered at Hearing Testimony in Spanish
by Bob Price on June 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM
As Mr. Antolin Aguirre gave testimony before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee this week he chose to give his testimony in Spanish. One of his fellow panelists acted as a translator. The testimony became cumbersome as the translator was unable to keep up. Texas Senator Chris Harris (R-Arlington) became angry and interrupted Aguirre and asked "Why aren't you speaking English?"
Aguirre had earlier stated that he had been in the United States since 1988. Senator Harris said "It is insulting to us. It is very insulting and if he knows English, he needs to be speaking English."
Houston's KHOU CBS 11's Gabe Gutierrez asked me to weigh in on this issue as part of his coverage of the story. Here is what he, and I, had to say.
The statement has sparked yet another firestorm as the left tries to use this issue to paint Republicans as anti Hispanic. But that is certainly not the case.
SB 9 has been a very long, very emotional and very drawn out debate. If you have ever sat in any of these hearings you know that many times (especially in contentious debates) you sit for 5-10 hours to testify for 5 minutes or less. Anything that delays that or causes delays is frustrating to the panelists of the committee and to the members of the audience.
While a witness would not be required to speak English, Aguirre's decision to speak Spanish frustrated attendees and Senators who do not speak and have no idea what is being said. Follow that with the delays caused by his selected interpreter not being able to keep up and asking him to repeat would add fuel to the fire. As he was capable of speaking English, perhaps his cause, and other's patience, would have been better served had he at least attempted in English.
If your purpose in testifying is to inform or persuade, why would you testify speaking a language many on the panel do not comprehend? Could it have perhaps been a political stunt? Or could it have at least been perceived by the Senator as a political stunt? Was that what angered him?
To add insult to injury, the next speaker came along and said he would be giving his testimony in Spanish, "or in French, s'il vous plaît?"
The Senator's staff told KHOU, "Senator Harris’ comments were in no way intended to be derogatory," his spokesperson, Kristen Webb, said in a written statement. "He continues to support the passage of SB 9 which will prevent Texas cities from directly or indirectly harboring illegal immigrants. This legislation creates a uniform standard across the state that will make Texas safer."
Sadly, most of us have no idea what Aguirre had to say.
The hot days of summer are certainly upon us. Perhaps it would be good for everyone to step back, take a deep breath and start working together to make Texas a better and safer place.