Colorado Politician Calls Spanish Creative 'Assimilation Offramp'

How Does a Seat-Belt PSA Become Controversial?

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Marcus Jimenez Marcus Jimenez
When Jan. 3 rolled around, I didn't realize how happy I would be. That day marked the end of a dark era in modern-day Colorado politics, as it meant the end of the former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's term. For anyone who doesn't know who he is, he's the Republican from the 6th congressional district who made a name for himself for staunchly opposing illegal immigration. Some of his criticisms and legislative attempts included the elimination of H1-B visas for temporary foreign workers and criticism of the Denver Public Library system for purchasing reading materials written in Spanish. He also ran for president in 2008, then bowed out of the race. The guy recommended America respond to the next terror attack by bombing Mecca and other holy sites.

Then Jan. 26 rolls around, and all of a sudden it felt like an episode of Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."

Here's the background: Back in August of 2008 I was contracted by a local Denver agency to help develop a PSA for the Colorado Department of Transportation. The PSA (shown below) was designed to target un-acculturated Hispanics on Spanish-language TV and address the issue of seat-belt safety. In 2008, 23% of Colorado's unbuckled road fatalities were of Hispanic descent. In a state where Hispanics make up about 19.6% of the total population, it couldn't be any more apparent how important and needed such communication and outreach was. People are dying regardless of where they're from.

Fast forward to Jan. 26, and Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis gets up in front of microphone to call the effort an "an assimilation offramp." Basically he's ticked that state funding was used to create the PSA in Spanish, which he sees as giving Hispanics the excuse to not assimilate into the American mainstream.

Now, I completely agree with the notion of having immigration reform to some degree -- and an acculturation process should be a part of that reform. But to present the conversation in a context that says we'll give you a message but it had better be in English is just appalling.

Whether you are for or against any form of immigration reform, we should be able to agree that it should not come at the cost of human tragedy, right? In writing this entry I will confess I am presenting a biased opinion as the work is my own. I will leave it to you to decide your own ethical and moral position presented.

But I do have one idea: How about the senator and his committee carve out a budget that would allow him and his staff to go out and get some culture outside of Colorado? Visit any multicultural neighborhood like L.A.'s Little Mexico, Miami's Mini Havana or New York's Dominican Heights and tell me again that federally funded Spanish-language communication is an "assimilation offramp." As a matter of fact, I'll even give you $20 for a NYC Metrocard to ride to Spanish Harlem and tell that to the residents there. I'm sure they'll have some colorful perspective to share with you directly on the subject. And some might even do it in English.

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Marcus Jimenez is multicultural marketing, managing director at TracyLocke.

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