Arlington State Senator: “Why Aren’t You Speaking English?”

By Jason Allen, Scott Braddock & Ryan Crowe,

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – An Arlington State Senator is taking heat after asking a man testifying on immigration “Why aren’t you speaking in English, then?”

Earlier this week State Senator Chris Harris interrupted Antonlin Aguirre’s testimony against Senate Bill 9, the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ bill that would toughen restrictions on illegal immigrants.  The bill would cut funding from cities that tell police not to check immigration status of people they pull over.

Harris wanted to know why Aguirre addressed the committee hearing the bill in Spanish rather than English.  “If I understand him correctly, then he’s been here since 1988?” Harris asked after Aguirre described his experience.  “23 years. You’ve been here 23 years?”

When told Aguirre’s first language was Spanish, and that’s the language he felt comfortable speaking in, Harris said “It’s insulting to us. (pause) It’s very insulting.  If he needs to… if he knows English then he needs to be speaking it to us.”

The top ranking Republican Senator says the insult was to choose to speak Spanish when Aguirre admitted he knew some English.

KRLD’s Scott Braddock Reports:

Some Hispanic activists said it was a disturbing reaction.

Lee Saldivar, who was in the hearing, said it reminded him of the days when Spanish was all but outlawed.

“I lived that. I went through that in junior high, and elementary and high school. Back then we *couldn’t speak Spanish, at all.”

But Harris supporters were quick to jump to his defense, saying it was insulting that Aguirre either chose to use Spanish, or was advised to, during a hearing on an issue that is already divisive.

“The frustration may have been, you’re being asked to speak in a language most of us don’t understand, when, you may not speak English the way we do but I bet we could understand you,” said Dianne Costa, the former mayor of Highland Village.

Sara Legvold, who came to the United States from Cuba as a child, said Harris really did the right thing.
“English is the language of success in this country. And if you want to get somewhere, you need to learn English.”

Harris’ staffers have backed his statements, saying they were “In no way meant to be derogatory.” In a statement to CBS 11 Harris’ staff said “This particular individual understood and spoke English, however, purposely chose to speak in Spanish for the audience. Senator Harris believed that this individual should be addressing the Texas Legislature using the English language.

The House version of the “sanctuary cities” bill has yet to be taken up in the current special session.


One Comment

  1. chuck says:

    If you want to have free babies, health care, and tax free wages, at least you could speak the language

  2. john says:

    The Human race…….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! chuck… The human race ….

  3. DEE says:

    To date I have stopped doing business with any company that tells me I have to press “1” for “ENGLISH”….. When I travel to Norway, I speak Norwegian… when I travel to Mexico, I speak Spanish… What the heck ever happened to common courtesy? This man has lived in the US for 13 years… SPEAK ENGLISH !!!!

  4. loubee says:

    TOTALLY Not a “race” issue. English is the official language in the USA . But it seems as though, by the number of illegals coming in, they are trying to change it to Mexico — the country they are “escaping.”.

    1. N. Robinson says:

      The United States does not have an official language or a national language. However, the primary language spoken in this country is English. If you have a problem with the way things are conducted, then vote. Make sure you place people in office who are for the changes you would like to see.

      1. Don Curtis says:

        Actualy ,May 16,2006 senate passed a bill,was later diluted by some other bill
        but ,if you want to take sides stand south of the rio grand!

  5. L. Tanner says:

    We live in the United States of American, where the national language is English. You can’t go to another country and do what he did.

    1. N. Robinson says:

      The United States does not have an official language or a national language. However, the primary language spoken in this country is English.

    2. Maime Rodriguez says:

      We live in the United States of “America” (not American), where we have the right to speak in any language we want. One can most definitely go to another country and do what he did. All our POTUS’s have done so in the past and continue to do so today, but if you are talking about those that don’t allow that, then why not move to those countries instead? This is America, the greatest country in the world because of the freedoms afforded to the people, not some third world nation.

  6. MAX FOWLER says:


  7. Jordan Yoder says:

    As far as I know, it is not a legal requirement for anyone to speak the English language to a American public legislative body. It seems illogical to me to assume that the intention of this man is to insult the judicial committee. What would he stand to gain from that? I do think that it is advantageous for this country to have a Nationalistic pride but any intelligent person knows that we are basically a nation of immigrants at one point or another. If this man is speaking Spanish because it is his first language therefore he is better able to communicate his point then that is his right as an American citizen. Simply provide a translator. Freedom of speech means we basically have the right to speak any language we want. The real issue is illegal immigration not language. Lets keep our focus.

    1. marty says:

      Get your head out. Is this man even here legally?

    2. Debbie says:

      you are right, that it is not a legal requirement for anyone to speak the english language, but it should be. Most of the hispanic’s don’t try to speak english, and we, as americans, have to learn spanish to comunicate to them. No, it’s not right. they came to our country, and not only is it disrespectful, for them to come here and not try to learn our language, but it is insulting, for us to have to learn their language just to comunicate. Do you think that in thier country, they provide a translator, so that we can comunicate to them… No….It dosent hapen.. Yes, again you were right saying that as an American citizen he has the right to speak any language he wants, So I say, let him spwak spanish to comunicate, but we should not havelearn his language in order to comunicate, they need to learn english to comunicate, but still have the right to speak spanish if they want. In todays times, it is almost impossible to get a job, unless you are bi-lengual. That is not right. If you can not speak spanish, then you do not get the job. I sayBUL-****

  8. Dino says:

    Speaking Spanish in a public forum in America is an afront and a insult to America,
    and to the sponsoring organization, especially when the speaker knows English. English is a standard in many countries across the world, including America. Mr. Aguirre spoke in Spanish to the Texas Legislature with intent to offend. I agree with Texas State Senator Harris.

  9. mudhead says:

    I support the Senator fully. What an insult, for someone to have lived in the U.S. for 23 years, to speak to an English speaking group of lawmakers, in an American city, and who speaks and understands English to speak in Spanish or anything else. Talking about trying to make other people feel inferior!
    That also goes for those in the work place. Everyone who lives and works in America should be required to speak English at all times while in public.

  10. Betsey Perra says:

    English is our language. If you have been naturalized, you must be able to speak our language. you if want sympathy, speak our language!! Smarten up mister Spanish man!!

  11. DEE says:

    Holy Cow people….. I have an idea….. I am Norwegian so I am going to start demanding that the US print everything in Norwegian for me, I’m going to demand all business’s add an option to their phone system to speak and hear Norwegian. And since I am Norwegian I should get free medical care, free school for my kids and by golly gee whizzz I want Social Security benefits too. Toss in some of that there welfare and food stamps too…. A cute little ole section 8 house or apartment would be neato keen too.

    Give me a break….. I say racial profile the heck out of everyone… I can prove I am an American…. can ;you??

  12. Richard Tullius says:

    I agree with the senator 100%… now let’s get rid of the school bilingual program that doesn’t work, and then let’s see if we can work on getting English to be the official language for TEXAS. I shouldn’t have to learn Spanish so I can order at the drive thru in Texas.. Wake up before political correctness kills us.

  13. mudhead says:

    I disagree with Jordan above, because we indeed are a Nation of the Free, with many cultures, and many ethnic groups. That is exactly why everyone should be able to speak and read and understand English. There are well over 50 different Native American languages, not to mention all others spoken within the home enviroment, or with others of the same cultural group. However, I’ll say again, this is America, we are an English speaking country and those who live and function in this Country and wish to receive any and all benefits, should speak in the common language of the land. As a retired nurse I can say for sure, that someone who doesn’t speak and understand English, and who has a 1st language that is uncommon, and who is badly injured would not want to hang on until another person who spoke that language could be found. If this is the Country of choice for anyone, than he/she should be willing, able, and indeed proud to speak and make English their 1st language, and keep their Cultural Language as just that. Their Cultural Language.

    1. Maria says:

      NO I would like to go to the store and hear English for a change.These freeloaders need to learn it and teach their kids.

  14. Richard Tullius says:

    Just one question for johnboy, how many languages should I know… can we just use a little common sense. Even China has decided they need to learn and teach English

  15. El Jefe says:

    Sen Harris made only one mistake. He should have stopped the proceeding and moved on to other testimony while Mr Aguirre found an interpreter so that the panel could benefit from his comments. So now, the committee secretary is somehow required to type his comments, the State will now have to hire an interpreter to listen to the tape recording of the meeting and transcribe Mr Aguirre’s comments and each committee member will then have to read those comments that they did not comprehend when they were presented verbally in the hearing.

    Mr Aguirre was surely advised in advance of how disruptive his actions would be. Those persons should be sanctioned.

  16. jeffery says:

    People believe they are ‘entiltled’ to ‘comfort’… as if the constitution guarantees, freedom of speech, comfort, and to be happy… these are misinterpretations… freedom of speech is the right to question the government without it being criminalized, comfort is a personal issue, and happiness is a state of mind not a cost that can mandated to the state… SPEAK ENGLISH, otherwise… go home.

  17. a. valdez says:

    my hope is that mr. harris doesn’t back down. this should be used to start taking back the USA.
    borders! language! culture!
    if you live in this country then assimilate. it’s that simple. no i’m not cruel , mean spirited, or racist. both of may parents were born in mexico (naturalized citizens now) and so was my wife. but sorry socialists and libs we don’t telemundo in our house hold. the only language spoken is english. well, i might say a curse word in spanish if i stump a toe (so the kids won’t understand).
    mr aguirre shows no respect for this country. don’t come here trying to turn this country into the mess you left behind. you left for a reason. if it’s that great of a place then please return.

    1. MattGMD says:

      He spoke Spanish with an English translator. The vulgar porcine Senator Harris was the one insulting. You are a vulgar bully. Shame on you.

      1. RR Worker says:

        Shame on you Matt, State business should be conducted in the prevailing language-which happens to be English here. This person has been here over 20 years and should be able to speak fluent, not just passable, but FLUENT English. But no, he just did this for attention since he admitted that he speaks English. He should have been sent away from the speaker’s chair until he decided to convey his business in English. If you think the Senator is wrong, then you are what’s wrong with the big picture.

  18. MarineVet03 says:

    Wow, what a bunch of ignorant racism people. First of all this country will never make English it’s official language because too many companies make a lot of money by translating from ads, commercials , and products into spanish and you all know Im right. Also, if you nazis do your homework you will discover that there are WAY more natural born citizens that are on welfare. Furthermore, there are more natural born terrorist that are shooting up our schools and blowing up our buildings a acoss the U.S. i.e..whites…which again im sure you would agree. I’m not worried though, keep hating and blaming others…P.S. Keep English your only language because I guarantee it, because those that speak both english and Spanish like myself will definitely eat our cookie when we go interview for that job and get pick over someone who only speaks English. And you know it!

    1. Juan says:

      go back to mexico illegal

      1. MarineVet03 says:

        I’m actually a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran born here in Texas and will be getting a degee in Architecture, more American then you im sure. Why have so much hate towards others! White people hated blacks so much they wanted to segregate themselves from them, you are just this generation’s bunch of racism idiots!

    2. chatykat says:

      This is in reply to MarineVetidiot, You aparently didn;t do any of your homework..As of 2011 the hispanic race is the majority prison inmates in the united States. 41 percent of the nations 2 million jail or prison inmates are hispanic, 37 percent are afican Americans, and 19 percent are caucasian. There is nothing racial about wanting you people to show a little respect for our country, The terroist are all from another country, And the welfare, and housing, is all taken up by illeagal mexicans who want to come here and have babies after babies, and make us taxpayers foot the bill. Honey go back and do a little homework before shooting your mouth off and calling us americans nazis. and then maybe you should go back home if you feel that way about our country.

      1. MarineVet03 says:

        Chatykat, what you mean you people and our country…this IS my country! What have you done for your country lately, huh? I’ve done more than you could ever imagine, even surviving an I.E.D. In Iraq which I believe entitles me the right to have an opinion. And wait, who in the hell is talking about prison population. Anyways in order for an illegal to request government assistance they must have a valid social, which obviously they do not and ultimately means that we are not paying for their bills. Illegals do pay taxes every single time they buy something, you think someone is going to deny accepting their money…no, because money is money…and as hard as you try to believe otherwise, illegals make a huge contribution to OUR country…and if you can’t accept the fact than you are just kidding yourself! Likewise, do your homework.

      2. Mle_UTA says:

        You want to talk about prison stats…check out Table’s 6,7,12, and 13 and tell me what you see

      3. David says:

        Nice try to dilute hispanic crime rates, Mle_UTA. Most of the hispanics that are on the Dallas DEA wanted lists are labeled as white, when they clearly are not. See for yourself:

        BUSTILLOS, Juan – white?
        CARDENAS, Manolo Granado – white?
        CRUZ, Pedro Aguilar – white?
        GARCIA, Oscar Manuel Sr. – white?
        ISMAIL, Yaser Ahmad – white?

      4. callen says:

        Mle_UTA, your stats are only for city and county jails and almost half of that population are waiting for trial. Your stats do not include the majority of inmates who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

  19. JR says:

    Durring the W.W. II era,war strategists of nazi Germany searched for ways to infiltrate and topple the mighty United States. They came up with elaborate schemes to bankrupt and destroy it. Many of their schemes involved using Mexico.They wanted to offer Mexico a chance at re-conquest and promote massive illegal immigration. It is curious that there was absolute explosion of illegal immigration from the southern border,durring the two terms of George W. Bush. At the same time, he harped on the importance of the endless multi-trillion dollar deficit creating Middle East war,like a parrot or broken phonograph.

    1. FedUpTxn says:

      Amen! Could it be because good ole George was benefiting from the oil industry in the Gulf? Or maybe it’s because his sister-in-law is Hispanic!

  20. Engrpat says:

    Why do so many describe those that they disagree with as Nazis? I would think it is because they know their views and arguments don’t hold water and thus throw up walls to defect what they don’t want to hear.

  21. MattGordonMD says:

    Sen Harris is an offensive vulgarian. Apparently it made the bully Harris feel good to embarass and scold the gentleman who spoke Spanish with an English interpreter. With his brusque tone, porcine presence and barely coherent syntax, Harris made it clear that the intent of the legislation discussed is intended only to marginalize, discriminate and divide the citizens of Texas. The intent of the bill is mean-spririted; to call it ‘public safety’ is both disingenuous and insulting.

  22. Hoo says:

    This has nothing to do with race. It deals with speaking the language of the United States…Engish. I don’t care what color the speaker is…English is the language we use. Use it.

  23. TRISHAKAY says:


    1. MarineVet03 says:

      English is NOT the official language because there is NO official language set….it’s the official LEADING language. At least until 2035 when the U.S? census comes out with the stats that Latinos will surpass all others.

      1. MarineVet03 says:

        Just in case some poor guy is wondering where I’m getting my fact from.

      2. Max says:

        yeah but even then most of them will still be illegals.

      3. MarineVeterano03 says:

        It’s all about the numbers Max…Haven’t you ever heard of power in numbers!

    2. Maime Rodriguez says:

      Well, actually, there is a city in Texas that has declared Spanish as it’s official language. Look up El Cenizo, Texas. However, a true Texan would respect another person’s first amendment right. I guess that makes you NOT a true Texan. 😉

    1. jUANITA says:


  24. Rick McDaniel says:

    Totally agree. If he has been in the US since 1988, and cannot speak any English, then his testimony should be denied.

    The language of the US is English…..for citizens, and legal immigrants alike. Those who cannot speak the language, normally learn it as fast as possible…….everyone that is except Latinos……..who think that they somehow have the right to demand the entire country change the language of the country, to suit them! Totally unacceptable.

  25. MarineVet03 says:

    Here we go again, this country is like a broken recod. It’s funny, first we blame the Native Americans, then the Italians, then of course Black people(we know what happened there) and know I guess we have to point the finger at somebody else, oh let blame the Illegals. You know, I’ve noticed a pattern and it seems like every this country is in a financial crisis, we tend to start attacking(scapegoating) another race. We needed to expand in order to make more money from farming so we moved the Natives westward(Oregon Trial), then the Italians for taking up a lot of jobs during Great Depression as well as African Americans, that and well y’all just hated them for being as equal as you all. And now that we are in bad times, of course we have to blame illegals because the are “taking our jobs” which is amusing because if that’s the case it is sad. I know for a fact I will not be competing with an illegal any time soon, for I am an American who took advantage of all the opportunities given to me in this great nation of mine. And I’m out! Peace!

  26. luckyjimbeaux says:

    Way to go Senator Harris!! We can only hope you will be our next governor. We need you to stand up and defend Texas and our American border! Please run for governor!

  27. Bobvet73 says:

    Marinevet03, How much Arabic did you learn? As an Air Force vet I learned German and Turkish when I was stationed in those countries. I also learned Spanish. We have the right to speak any language we choose in this country. That does not change the fact that it is RUDE and INSULTING to speak a language to a group that doesn’t understand it when after 23 years you should be fluent in their language.

    1. MarineVet0311 says:

      Well Bobvet, not all of us infantry Marines were allotted time to stop training to learn another language. I guess we were too busy training and going OUTSIDE the wire constantly. I was learning Arabic until they cut it short because we had to go into Kuwait and when I was learning Japanese for 2 mths we were suddenly told we were moving again, so it must be nice to learn all of those lnguages behind a desk. Ooh-rah!

  28. YRofTexas says:

    I posted this before, but it was “held up” due to “awaiting moderation”, I suppose that was because I had a link attached. So here is my comment without the link. It may post, it may not. Dee, when I responded to your post, MY post suddenly appeared. Weird. Well, here goes:

    Senator Harris could have chosen to be rude to the gentleman by merely ignoring him, mentioned a “uh huh” then “NEXT”!
    Instead, Senator Harris wanted to HEAR and UNDERSTAND what the gentleman was saying. The Senator tried to clarify why he could not understand the man, and this is the flack he gets?
    Do you suppose that Antonlin Aguirre (the gentleman) was speaking Spanish on purpose just to raise this stir and make a political statement that he wants America (or at least starting with Texas) to be bilingual on the state-level?

    It is a good idea to maintain one specific language, so that communication is clear and there is less grievance for all. Immigrants can maintain their native language, but learning English will also prove beneficial for them to know in the long run. (Texan is next best…LOL)
    Remember this: Countries like China, India and the African Continent were easily conquered for many generations because of the multiple languages…mere villages miles away would speak different dialects which caused much warring among the individual families and clans. To share a common language benefits and strengthens a country.

    Ok. That was it. Bye.

  29. DianneH says:

    I have said for YEARS: Speak English or GO HOME!! You are taking advantage or everything we have to offer. The least you can do is speak the language. I find it very offensive that people come HERE and expect US to speak THEIR language. NOT GONNA HAPPEN!!

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