Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette and three Hispanic politicians Saturday denounced a Colorado ballot proposal that would force Spanish- speaking students to learn English in one year.
Degette, D-Denver, was joined by Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega and U.S. Reps. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., in front of Del Pueblo Elementary School in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
They emphasized that foreign-speaking children enrolled in Colorado public schools need to learn English to succeed in American society. However, they maintained that bilingual education helps limited-English speakers achieve that goal while learning core subjects in their native language.
“Immersion is like taking a child, an infant, and throwing him in a pool and suggesting that hopefully you will survive and that you will be able to swim,” Menendez said.
“Well, some may swim but many will not.”
DeGette called the ballot initiative, which would let Colorado voters decide whether to kill bilingual education, “destructive.”
While supporters of the initiative are gathering signatures that would put the measure on the November ballot, an opposition group, Common Sense Colorado, is working to kill it.
“We’re here to talk about something very serious for all of the children of this state,” DeGette said.
“And that is the destructive ballot initiative that is going to be put on the ballot and will gut bilingual education in this state.”
Menendez, the vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and Pastor, a House Appropriations Committee member, were in Denver for the weekend to participate in the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.
“Let me just say there isn’t a Latino family, or for that fact, an immigrant family in this country who does not want their children to fully command the English language,” Menendez said.
Backers of the ballot proposal, including U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Linda Chavez, president of One Nation Indivisible, believe that a one- year program in English would keep monolingual Spanish speakers from languishing in classes taught in their native language.