Pahrump “English-only”? Pahrump Valley, Nye County’s Largest Newspaper Circulation
Pahrump Town Ordinance 54, the so-called “English-only” measure was repealed with the passage of PTO 61 at the town board meeting Tuesday.
The new ordinance, which effectively eradicates PTO 54, was passed on a unanimous vote by the five-member panel. When PTO 54 was enacted last fall, it won passage on a 3-2 vote. None of the three in favor of the original measure had been elected.
The original ordinance, which after considerable revision served to establish English as the official language of Pahrump, was passed under the glare of media lights from major Las Vegas news networks and was even covered by the international media online.
It was ultimately repealed with slightly less clamor, although Fox News Network showed up with its cameras rolling.
A few concerned citizens also showed up to ask that the English ordinance either not be repealed or to support for getting rid of it.
Former board member Michael Miraglia, who had introduced the “English-only” draft, also showed up but chose not to speak during public comment.
The original ordinance’s bumpy road to passage was highlighted by threats of litigation from the American Civil Liberties Union and a capacity crowd when nearly 400 residents showed up at the Bob Ruud Community Center for its final reading.
Before the ordinance even passed, it underwent several revisions due to constitutional questions.
PTO 54 originally included a section that dictated how residents of Pahrump could conduct business with illegal immigrants.
It essentially made it unlawful to hire or lend money to anyone without documentation proving they were a United States citizen and forbade any business to close in support of another nation.
That section was removed from it prior to its first reading.
The fines and punishments levied for violating the ordinance were also softened considerably before its passage.
When PTO 54 finally passed in front of a full house, it merely established English as the official language of Pahrump, meaning all official documents in the government of the town would be written in English, and included a list of loopholes as long as your arm.
Contrary to what many residents seemed to believe, it did not make it illegal to speak Spanish or any other language in Pahrump and it suggested no efforts to address the problem of illegal immigation.
And since Pahrump’s official documents have always been written in English, the ordinance in reality did little more than to codify the status quo.
Nevertheless, the issue sparked a number of activist groups to take root in Pahrump.
The Mexican-American Political Association formed a chapter here in response to backlash they felt the Latino community was receiving as a result of the ordinance.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Pahrump Minutemen, citizens concerned with illegal immigration issues, also began holding regular protests on Highway 160 and often displayed signs that supported PTO 54.
Although the ordinance as it was passed did not address illegal immigration, the issue still sparked many comments and discussion about that issue on a national and local level.
But the legislative saga wasn’t quite over yet.
Nye County Sheriff DeMeo openly said the ordinance was largely unenforceable, and he would not be the one to open the town’s coffers to a potentially expensive lawsuit from the ACLU.
Although the ordinance had passed, Miraglia ultimately decided to remove the “flag flying” section of it because of concerns with its constitutionality.
All of this hubbub occurred during the twilight of the former board’s term.
Only incumbent Laurayne Murray remains at the table.
Even before taking office, the new board said it would consider repealing the English ordinance.
Clerk Don Rust addressed the former board before his first meeting as a member and said repealing the ordinance was one of the first things he planned to do once he was sworn in.
Rust kept his word, and the first reading of PTO 61, repealing the English ordinance, was one of the first items on the agenda at the new board’s first meeting.
Although its repeal wasn’t as clamorous as its adoption, PTO 54 did not go quietly into that good night.
Ben Reygers addressed the board in Dutch to make his point, which was that English was needed as a unifying language because it is unfair to cater only to immigrants who speak Spanish.
After his statement, Reygers looked to the board and innocently asked whether it had any response to what he said.
Although they didn’t have any direct response to Reygers’ statement, Chairman Murray did address him.
“Because this is the public comment period, you’re welcome to state your name and give any public comment you want,” Murray conceded. “(But) to get the best consideration from your board members, it’s to your advantage to communicate in a language that we have fluency in.”
Oscar Ricanco, a local television show host, publicly admitted that he had come to America illegally many years ago.
He said he has since gotten his citizenship but also pointed out that, when he came to America, he made every effort to learn English because it was necessary for him to get through daily life.
He also emphasized, however, that he had made a personal commitment to educate his community, and the only way he could do that was to speak in Spanish.
He said that PTO 54 was only serving to divide the community, and that all Latinos, not only Mexicans, needed to work together.
Prior to voting on the ordinance, John McDonald reminded the audience that neither of the ordinances addressed the issue of illegal immigration.