How could I have waited to post this? The new town board of Pahrump has repealed the English-only and flag flying ordinance. If you recall, I was at the meeting where they passed the unconstitutional/racist ordinance.
(9) # 2/16/2007
The Pahrump Town Board has punted that crazy ordinance proposal I wrote about last week, and the incoming board is likely to repeal the first crazy one. And even better, unlike the meeting I went to which was dominated by white, elderly jingoists, last night's meeting was attended by hundreds from the Hispanic community. My favorite quote from the above Review-Journal article:
One gray-haired woman held up her middle finger to the board as she stomped out of the community center following the vote.(1) #12/13/2006
Just when I thought Pahrump's Town Board couldn't get more absurd, village "culture warrior" Michael Miraglia proposes yet another loony ordinance. This one, I kid you not, forces undocumented foreign nationals to register when entering the town, which process includes paying a $200 fee, listing all aliases and forged documents in possession, and getting fingerprinted. Failure to register leads to large fines and on the third offense, I shit you not, deportation to the country of origin by the town itself, funded by the registration fees!
Then there's what I call the ACLU tax:
CHALLENGE FEE. Any non-government agency that shall challenge this undocumented foreign national ordinance shall upon challenge pay a $ 20,000.00 fee to cover any costs which may be incurred by the Town of Pahrump. The fee shall be non-refundable and shall be used for any legal challenges that may be incurred by the Town of Pahrump by the challenging party or parties.
Ha! First they try to override the Federal government's power over immigration laws, then they try to intimidate legal challengers with expensive, shall we say, First Amendment fees!? I don't have enough imagination to predict what they'll come up with next, but for now, here's the full text of the proposed ordinance to keep you entertained.
Last night, I was one of around 250 people who witnessed the Pahrump Town Board vote 3-2 to enact the “English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance”. It was a hostile angry mob environment and -- much to the liking of most of the Pahrump residents at the meeting, I'm sure -- I left town soon after it passed sorry that I had to spend $10 on gas in town to get the car over the mountain pass back to Las Vegas.
The passed resolution is similar to the original one proposed with a few of the more grossly unconstitutional items removed. There are several ins-and-outs to the resolution, but let me state the two major issues discussed at the meeting:
- The resolution requires all government business to be conducted in English, and denies town "benefits" (of which none currently exist, since they informally declared emergency services not a "benefit") to be given to illegal immigrants.
- The resolution denies private residences and businesses the right to fly alone the flag of a nation other than the United States.
When the resolution was announced by one of the town board members, the mostly white and elderly crowd cheered and hollered. Soon afterwards they opened the floor to public comment. Lee was one of the first in line, and as soon as she introduced herself as a staff attorney of the Nevada ACLU, the crowd booed and shouted her down. This was a medium-sized room packed to the rim with very hostile people, mostly not interested in civil discourse. If it wasn't for the five to seven cops in the room, I would not have felt safe.
Lee's three minutes of time were constantly interrupted with boos and insults, but here's what she got through: 1) If the resolution was strictly an English-language resolution, the ACLU might not have even been there [cheers], but then there's this section about flags. Is it really in the spirit of the First Amendment to prevent an American citizen from celebrating St. Patrick's Day with an Irish flag, or an Italian restaurant advertising with an Italian flag, or even a former Southerner from putting up a Confederate flag? 2) Since the flag section is blatantly unconstitutional, Pahrump will be fiscally responsible for any legal fees when the lawsuit is inevitably successful, costing the town hundreds of thousands of dollars ["Extortion!"] for the sake of a symbolic gesture.
But the crowd would have none of it. After several members of the board aggressively told Lee that her time was up, despite the fact a large chunk of her time was taken up by shouts from the mob, several more people went up to comment, some for, some against. Those that spoke for the resolution did not seem to realize that it mostly affects government business, which already is conducted in English. They spoke about frustrations with having to choose a language at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, about the wars they had fought in and how it pains them to hear Spanish spoken in their daily lives, about the jobs the low-wage Mexican workers are taking from them. Perhaps they realized that the resolution did not speak to these so-called problems, but still they supported the symbolic fuck-you.
Those that spoke against it brought up the First Amendment. They spoke about our veterans who fought in other countries to defend our rights, and the melting pot history of America. One woman, a member of the Cherokee Nation, mourned that she wouldn't be able to put up the flag of her heritage. The crowd was more respectful to these speakers than they were to the ACLU, but still the arguments fell on deaf ears.
And here's where I want to make clear that I don't think the Pahrump citizens supporting this amendment are necessarily bad people. (Although I might want to say that about the board members who spearheaded the resolution.) They are frustrated with the global economy, scared to see their culture fading away, and are generally doing what humans tend to do: clinging to their past, wallowing in their comforts. I'm not upset with them to some degree because, even though this resolution passed and they won the battle, they know they are losing the war. Many of them will soon die, and they will then be remembered mostly in Jerry Bruckheimer films and books by Tom Brokaw. Their culture is indeed fading away, as all generational cultures do. The real tragedy is what they can do in their final, desperate years by reacting to their fears and forgetting the moral basis of their great country.
It was clear during the course of the night that the crowd wasn't there to speak for the resolution as it was written, but to merely voice their displeasure of the changing world. One of the board members against the resolution said most of the illegal activity can be reduced by better enforcing extant laws -- it didn't matter, the Spanish-speakers must go. And so they cheered and hollered on a resolution that probably wouldn't have been out of place in Castro's Cuba or Franco's Spain, putting the mob flame to the Bill of Rights. The resolution will be overturned by the courts, if the next Pahrump town board doesn't repeal it first, but still the racial intimidation will live on. By the way, if hearing the above angers you, and you're wondering what you can do, perhaps now is not a bad time to give the minimum of $20 it takes to become a member of the ACLU.
A final thought: while I've said that I don't entirely blame the populace of Pahrump for passing such an initiative, I can't help wishing that they are in some form punished for the unethical behavior of the town board. They may feel the fiscal pain of losing their day in court, or the economic slump of threatened immigrant residents leaving the town, but let's be honest: Pahrump is a quickly growing town, and construction money is pouring in (even if in small, low-wage packets to people who don't speak fluent English).
So here is my Pahrump curse: may they experience continual massive growth; may people whose ways are unfamiliar to theirs pour in, buying cookie-cutter houses by the thousands; may the sprawling developments replicate virally over their desert landscape, exponentially increasing until that one inevitable day arrives, that day where their population ticker flips up to that magical 400,000 where state law kicks in and their brothels have to close shop; and on that day may they look around and not see that unique Pahrump that they grew up in, but a Pahrump that's merely a satellite development of Las Vegas, a characterless suburban sprawl indistinguishable from, say, Centennial; a Pahrump that is Pahrump no more, clutching only to their history. And then the permanent oil supply decline will begin...
The Town Board of Pahrump, a medium-sized town an hour west of Las Vegas best known for having the closest legal brothels from The Strip, is considering a proposal called the "English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance." Here are some choice passages from the three-page proposal to make English the official language of the town:
- Publications in English: All notices, proceedings, and other matter whatsoever, required by law or ordinance to be published in a newspaper, shall be published only in the English language and in newspapers published primarily in the English language.
- Flying of Flags on residential and business property including land. The Official Flag of the United States of America shall be flown in accordance to United States Code, Title 4. No other flag or pennant may be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America.
- A flag of a foreign nation cannot be flown by itself, and must always be flown with the Official Flag of the United States of America, union first, from separate staffs. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other international flag, equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States.
- It is the responsibility of the employer to see to it that an employee is able to converse in English with customers and fellow workers of the employer.
- No persons, employer, or business in the Town of Pahrump shall house, loan, or give money to an illagal alien or undocumented worker.
- No person, employer, or business, such as a hotel, restaurant, or bar as an example, and not limited to those types of businesses, in the Town of Pahrump shall close in sympathy to any foreign person(s) or country unless requested to do so by the local, state, or federal government.
Does anyone need to be told that this proposal is grossly unconstitutional? It's virtually a textbook case. And it's not surprising that, as the above Sun article says, the "ordinance's author says that much of the supporting material he has gathered in drafting the law has come from radio talk shows and The Minutemen or other anti-illegal immigration groups." If they pass this ordinance, they can expect to pony up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees in the near future.
If you're interested, here's the whole proposal.