Backers and opponents of a law that’d require state government business to be conducted in English gathered at the statehouse yesterday for a rally and public hearing. Sandra Sanchez of the Iowa Immigrants Rights Network spoke against the bill. She says, “It was not the English language what inspired me to become a citizen. It was freedom, democracy and justice, which are the core values that inspire us all.” Ako Abdul-Samad, a black activist from Des Moines, says the “English Only” bill sends the wrong message. He says September 11 proved that we must stand together to keep others from dividing us. John Campbell is a member of the United Steelworkers union. He says if the bill is passed, it will be a painful reminder of how descriminatory Iowa can be in the post-9/11 era. “U-S English” chairman Mauro Mujica denounced the detractors. He scoffs at the idea that it sends an unwelcome message and says heritage and culture “is not something you put on in the morning, it’s part of you.” Mujica says making English the official language of Iowa will help, not hurt, immigrants. The same way the owners of slaves forbade slaves to read and write, he says the leaders of these groups are afraid their members will learn English and become part of the whole. Mujica says 20-thousand Iowans are members of his group, which presses for making English the “official language” of our country. Mujica’s a retired architect and native of Chile who is now a U-S citizen.
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