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Topics in the News: Bilingualism


Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Health Care Sep 14, 2020)
Created pandemic department for emergency response

[In 2005], President George W. Bush read "The Great Influenza," by historian John M. Barry. He was shaken by the story of a mysterious plague that killed millions worldwide [the Spanish Flu of 1918-19]. He feared it˙could happen again.

He told his Homeland Security team, "Look, this happens every 100 years. We need a national strategy." In an 11/5/05 speech outlining the plan, he said, "if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare." The administration created a 381-page plan that would outline the proper responses to possible virus outbreaks.

Sections of this plan were implemented in 2014 when an Ebola patient was discovered in the US President Barack Obama and his administration escalated the planning through the creation of a department within the National Security Council to plan and prepare for possible emergencies. The plan was passed on to Donald Trump's incoming administration [who disbanded the offices prior to the coronavirus pandemic].

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Business Insider, YouTube video "Totally Under Control"

Joe Biden on Bilingualism: (Immigration Mar 15, 2020)
Xenophobia is a disease; invest in Latinos' future

Q: What about treating infected illegal immigrants?

BIDEN: Anyone who shows up to be tested for Coronavirus, or gets Coronavirus treated, would be held harmless. There are certain things you cannot deport an undocumented person for and that would be one of them. We want that. It's in the interests of everyone. And those folks who are the xenophobic folks out there, it's even in their interest that that [infected person] come forward, because it keeps the spread from moving more rapidly.

Q: What about closing the Mexican border during the pandemic?

BIDEN: Our future rests upon the Latino community being fully integrated. If we do not invest in their future, everything that the xenophobes are concerned about will in fact get worse, not better. We should be embracing, bringing them in, just like what happened with the Irish immigrants after the famine, just what happened with the Italians, et cetera. We've been through this before, xenophobia is a disease.

Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: 11th Democratic primary debate (Biden-Sanders one-on-one)

Joe Biden on Bilingualism: (Foreign Policy Feb 19, 2020)
Helped with $750M Latin America funding

Look, I'm the only one who's spent hundreds of hours in Latin America. I've met with this president. I've met with the last president, the one before that. I've been deeply involved in making sure that we have a policy that makes more sense than this god-awful president we have now. I'm the guy that put together $750 million to provide help for those Latin American countries that are the reason why people are leaving, because there's nothing for them to stay for.
Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: 9th Democrat 2020 primary debate, in Las Vegas Nevada

Joe Biden on Bilingualism: (Tax Reform Feb 19, 2020)
More tax breaks for Latino and black businesses

Taxes on small businesses won't go up. We're going to make sure there's more money available for small businesses in the Latino community and the black community to be able to get the capital to start businesses. We should start rewarding work, not just wealth. That's why we have to change the tax code the way it is. That's why the wealthy have to start to pay their fair share. And that's why we have to focus on giving people the ability to generate wealth.
Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: 9th Democrat 2020 primary debate, in Las Vegas Nevada

Beto O`Rourke on Bilingualism: (Government Reform Jun 26, 2019)
New voting rights: automatic & same-day voter registration

Right now, we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes. That's how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest. A $2 trillion tax cut that favored corporations while they were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in this country at a time of historic wealth inequality.

[SPEAKING IN SPANISH]: We need to include every person in the success of this economy. But if we want to do this we need to include every person in our democracy. Each vote, each voter needs the representation, and every voice needs to listen.

[SPEAKING IN ENGLISH]: [We need] a new democracy that is revived because we've returned power to the people, no PACs, no gerrymandering, automatic and same-day voter registration to bring in more voters, and a new Voting Rights Act to get rid of the barriers that are in place now. That's how we each have a voice in our democracy and make this economy work for everybody.

Click for Beto O`Rourke on other issues.   Source: June Democratic Primary debate (first night in Miami)

Cory Booker on Bilingualism: (Immigration Jun 26, 2019)
Make major investments in the Northern Triangle

Secretary Julian CASTRO: [On immigration, we should] get to the root cause of the issue, which is we need a Marshall Plan for Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador.

Sen. Cory BOOKER: [SPEAKING IN SPANISH]: The situation right now is unacceptable. This president has attacked, has demonized immigrants. [SWITCHING TO ENGLISH]: I will make sure that, number one, we end the ICE policies and the Customs and Border Policies that are violating the human rights. When people come to this country, they do not leave their human rights at the border. Number two, I will make sure that we reinstate DACA, that we reinstate pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients. And then, finally, we need to make major investments in the Northern Triangle, not like this president is doing, by ripping away the resources we need to actually solve this problem. We cannot surrender our values and think that we're going to get border security. We actually will lose security and our values. We must fight for both.

Click for Cory Booker on other issues.   Source: June Democratic Primary debate (first night in Miami)

Julian Castro on Bilingualism: (Foreign Policy Apr 11, 2019)
21st century Marshall Plan for Central and Latin America

We need a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central and Latin America, because the problem is that folks can't find safety and opportunity in Honduras or El Salvador or Guatemala [the "Northern Triangle" which is the source of most refugees top the U.S.]. If we can partner with those countries so that people can find safety and opportunity there, instead of having to come and knock on the door of the United States, you know, that's what they want. That is going to be better for those countries.
Click for Julian Castro on other issues.   Source: CNN Town Hall: 2020 presidential hopefuls

Julian Castro on Bilingualism: (Corporations Feb 15, 2019)
Supported tax breaks to lure corporations

Castro's approach to job growth often involved corporate giveaways. A month after insurance company AllState announced it was opening up a bilingual customer information center in San Antonio, receiving $1.1 million from the state government, Castro backed and voted for an incentives package that gave the company a six-year, 65 percent tax abatement, a $30,000 grant for permitting and development fees, and nominated it to be able to receive a $1.25 million refund in sales and uses taxes.
Click for Julian Castro on other issues.   Source: Jacobin Magazine on 2020 Democratic primary contenders

Bernie Sanders on Bilingualism: (Foreign Policy Mar 9, 2016)
Opposed Monroe Doctrine interventionism in Latin America

Q: Please explain what is the difference between the socialism that you profess and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.

SANDERS: The US was wrong to try to invade Cuba; the US was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government; the US was wrong trying to overthrow, in 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala. Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we've operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said the US had the right do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So I actually went to Nicaragua and I very shortly opposed the Reagan administration's efforts to overthrow that government. And I strongly opposed Henry Kissinger and the overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the US should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change. And all of these actions in Latin America brought forth a lot of very strong anti-American sentiments.

Click for Bernie Sanders on other issues.   Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami

Hillary Clinton on Bilingualism: (Jobs Mar 9, 2016)
Help Latinos with more jobs and higher incomes

The fastest-growing segment of small businesses are minority and women-owned small business, and we need to help businesses get started. We need to raise the minimum wage and we have to guarantee equal pay for women. Everything I just said will improve the living conditions, and I've spent a lot of time and effort talking to and mostly listening to Latinos. Jobs are the number one issue, with rising incomes.
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami

Donald Trump on Bilingualism: (Immigration Sep 16, 2015)
This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish

We have a country, where, to assimilate, you have to speak English. And I think that where he was, and the way it came out didn't sound right to me. We have to have assimilation--to have a country, we have to have assimilation. I'm not the first one to say this. We've had many people over the years, for many, many years, saying the same thing. This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.
Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: 2015 Republican two-tiered primary debate on CNN

Donald Trump on Bilingualism: (Immigration Jun 16, 2015)
Mexico & Latin America send us drugs, crime, and rapists

Mexico is beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they're killing us economically. The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems.

When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we're getting. And it only makes common sense. They're sending us not the right people.

It's coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America, and it's coming probably--probably--from the Middle East. But we don't know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don't know what's happening. And it's got to stop and it's got to stop fast.

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: 2015 announcement speeches of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Hillary Clinton on Bilingualism: (Foreign Policy Jun 10, 2014)
Integrate with Latin America but focus on income inequality

[In 2009], economic inequality in Latin America was still among the worst in the world. I argued that a key challenge in the years ahead would be to make sure that the benefits of economic growth were broadly shared and that the region's democracies delivered concrete results for their citizens. "Rather than defining economic progress simply by profit margins and GDP, our yardstick must be the quality of human lives," I suggested, so we should be measuring "whether families have enough food on the table, whether young people have access to schooling, whether workers have safe conditions on the job."

A number of Latin American countries, notably Brazil, Mexico, and Chile, had already found success in reducing inequality and lifting people out of poverty. [Some successful policies include] "conditional cash transfer" programs; cooperation on energy and climate change; and on linking different national and regional electrical grids from northern Canada all the way down to the tip of Chile.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Hard Choices, by Hillary Clinton, p.254-5

Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Immigration Oct 11, 2011)
Comprehensive reform can't be done by president alone

To the Spanish-language newspaper "La Opinion", Obama defended his work on immigration: "In some ways there is an unrealistic notion of what I can get done by myself." On Oct. 25, Obama agreed to an in-studio radio interview with Eddie Sotelo, the host of a popular program on an L.A. Spanish station.

The interview deteriorated; Obama remained mostly on the defensive. "If the majority of Democrats support this issue, if I as president support this issue.then the question I have is why are we spending time talking about us instead of spending time focusing on getting Republicans to do what's right?" he asked. As the interview continued, he seemed more than ever like a president beleaguered by all that he could not control:

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Ten Letters, by Eli Saslow, p.164-165

Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Civil Rights Jun 28, 2008)
Has stood together with Latino leaders for last 20 years

I’ve been working with Latino leaders ever since I entered public service more than 20 years ago. We stood together when I was an organizer, lifting up neighborhoods that had been devastated when the local steel plants closed. We stood together when I was a civil rights attorney, working to ensure that Latinos were being well represented. And we marched together to fix our broken immigration system. That’s why you can trust me when I say that I’ll be your partner in the White House.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Obama & McCain back-to-back speeches at NALEO

Mike Gravel on Bilingualism: (Foreign Policy May 2, 2008)
Cold War Latin America policy was imperialistic

In Congress we seized the opportunity to examine what had gone wrong, not only in Vietnam, but with American foreign policy since 1947. Much of the policy had been carried out in secret. Covert operations had hidden America’s imperial designs through client regimes in the developing world. US administrations had backed some of the most vicious, fascistic dictators in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The claim was to defeat Soviet “imperialism.” We of course weren’t being imperialistic. That American business benefited mightily from these arrangements seemed beside the point.

America was spreading democracy by overthrowing democratically elected leaders and installing dictators and kings: 1776 in reverse. Allende’s overthrow followed the pattern begun with Mosaddeq in Iran in 1953 and Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

It took Watergate and America’s first defeat in war to probe the underside of Cold War foreign and domestic policy. America’s abuse of its moral victory in WWII was exposed.

Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p.193-194

Mike Gravel on Bilingualism: (War & Peace May 2, 2008)
Iraq war was propagandized like 1898 “Remember the Maine!”

The military-industrial partnership [in the late 1800s] needed a war to launch America’s overseas empire. The spark came after the suspicious sinking of the US battleship Maine in Havana in 1898. It was blamed, without proof, on Spain. The three-month conflict with the decrepit Spanish Empire left the US with the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

In the end 4,324 Americans were lost, as well as between 600,000 and 1 million Filipinos--eerily familiar numbers today. Also disturbingly alike were Congressional hearings that revealed US troops used water torture against Filipinos. The Philippine occupation and resulting insurgency was essentially repeated in Vietnam and Iraq. The aims were the same: to expand US power and economic interests against competing nations under the phony banner of Christianity or democracy. All three invasions were driven by money and power as ends in themselves--or as a means to more money and power.

Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: A Political Odyssey, by Mike Gravel, p. 95-96

Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Immigration Feb 21, 2008)
Encourage every student to learn a second language

Q: Is there any down side to the US becoming a bilingual nation?

A: It is important that everyone learns English and that we have that process of binding ourselves together as a country. Every student should be learning a second language, because when you start getting into a debate about bilingual education, for example, now, I want to make sure that children who are coming out of Spanish-speaking households had the opportunity to learn and are not falling behind. If bilingual education helps them do that, I want to give them the opportunity. But I also want to make sure that English-speaking children are getting foreign languages because this world is becoming more interdependent and part of the process of America’s continued leadership in the world is going to be our capacity to communicate across boundaries, across borders, and that’s something frankly where we’ve fallen behind. Foreign languages is one of those areas that I think has been neglected. I want to put more resources into it.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin

Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Immigration Feb 21, 2008)
Need to look at different aspects of immigration reform

We need stronger border security. We are cracking down on employers that are taking advantage of undocumented workers because they can’t complain if they’re not paid a minimum wage and not getting overtime. Worker safety laws are not being observed. We have to make sure that doesn’t lead to people with Spanish surnames being discriminated against. We have to require that undocumented workers go to the back of the line, so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin

Hillary Clinton on Bilingualism: (Immigration Feb 21, 2008)
No official English, but keep common unifying language

Q: Is there any downside to the US becoming a bilingual nation?

A: It’s important for as many Americans as possible to do what I have never been able to do, and that is learn another language and try to be bilingual because that connects us to the rest of the world. It is important that English remain our common unifying language because that brings our country together in a way that we have seen generations of immigrants coming to our shores be able to be part of the American experience and pursue the American dream. I have been adamantly against the efforts by some to make English the official language. That I do not believe is appropriate, and I have voted against it and spoken against it. I represent New York. We have 170 languages in NYC alone. I do not think we should be, in any way, discriminating against people who do not speak English, who use facilities like hospitals or have to go to court to enforce their rights. But English does remain an important part of the American experience.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin

Barack Obama on Bilingualism: (Immigration Dec 4, 2007)
OK to provide government services in Spanish

Q: Will you remove the question about what language we speak when we call any U.S. government office?

A: No, because there are Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens who may not speak English well, and if they’re seeking help, for example, on some vital health care question, or a senior citizen who emigrated here a long time ago and they’re trying to get their Social Security check, I don’t want them to not be able to get those services.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR

Hillary Clinton on Bilingualism: (Immigration Dec 4, 2007)
English unifies us; teach ESL but support other languages

Q: Is this country gradually going to become more a Spanish-speaking country, and should we accept that?

A: Well, there’s three different points here. First, we need to have English as a common, unifying language. It’s an important part of who we are and how we keep this big, diverse country of ours going. Secondly, there are a lot of Americans who are citizens who speak different languages. I represent New York City. I think there’s, like, 170 languages and dialects; the city would be in total chaos if people didn’t get some services and some help in the language that they actually understood. And thirdly, make it clear that we do expect people who want to become legal in America to try to learn English. But that doesn’t mean that they have to give up the language that they originally had, but we have to do more with English as second language, more help in schools, to get people to be able to speak and comprehend English

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR

Joe Biden on Bilingualism: (Immigration Dec 4, 2007)
FactCheck: 67% of illegal aliens speak Spanish; not 40%

Biden’s discussion of his search for a nanny years ago led him into trouble. Biden said, “Most of the illegals that came to seek a job with me, they did not speak Spanish. They were from Ireland, England. They were from Germany. They were from Poland. The majority of the people here undocumented--60%--are not Spanish speaking.” Chris Dodd jumped in and confirmed that most illegals are, in fact, Spanish speakers. Biden wisely deferred to Dodd.

In fact, Mexico was the country of birth of 57% of the estimated 11.55 million unauthorized immigrants in 2006. Add in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras--all Spanish-speaking countries--and it jumps to 67%. You’d have to go back many decades to get to a time when the majority of undocumented immigrants were Britons, Germans, Irish and Poles.

Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: FactCheck on 2007 Democratic radio debate on NPR

Mike Gravel on Bilingualism: (Immigration Jun 3, 2007)
Make English the official language of the US

We speak English. That doesn’t mean we can’t encourage other languages. I speak French and English. People speak Spanish and English. But the official language of the United States of America is English.
Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College

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Page last updated: Dec 08, 2020