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Immigrants Sentenced to Learn English, Deported Instead

Last month a state judge ordered three Spanish-speaking immigrants to learn English — or go to jail. Well, even promises to be bilingual couldn't keep these convicts in the US. Immigration and Custom Enforcement has decided to deport the men back to the Dominican Republic.

The convicts came to the US legally, but because they were convicted of armed robbery and assault, their time here is up.

The men won't get a chance to serve their creative sentence — the judge had told them they could remain on parole, so long as they passed an English reading and writing test in a year's time. If they failed, they would go to jail for 24 months. At the sentencing the judge asked them: "Do you think we are going to supply you with a translator all of your life?"

How do you feel about the original sentence? Even though the US doesn't have an official language, do you think the judge was considering the immigrants' best interest, as well as society's, when he ordered them to learn English?


Join The Conversation
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I think the judge should be disbarred for such an aggrevious abuse of his power. Would he also give an english speaking American the same sentence? I am glad someone else picked this up and got those two criminals deported.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks bailaoragaditana, for your professional opinion. Sometimes, I am shocked how people are one sided and just throw out information.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
I take a pretty lenient stance on immigration as a whole, but the judges sentence was absolutely absurd. If I go to Japan to visit and I rob a store at gun point, they aren't going to make me learn Japanese as a punishment. It's an iffy situation...deport them or imprison them, but either way: a sentence of "learn a langauge" is ridiculous.
libre1 libre1 9 years
Not American - don't know the ins and outs of the immigration system, other than it's strict but I don't think it's prohibitively so. But, I do agree that if you're migrating to a country, you should be able to speak the primary language of that country - if only for your own benefit - seeking employment, health-care, groceries and general socialisation are OBVIOUSLY assisted by knowing the language and more than that, it shows that you want to become part of that country, not just change where you're living (if that makes sense). But I guess, in all, the minute I read "convicted of armed robbery and assault" I thought they should be deported. No country needs to adopt that.
gloomy_bear gloomy_bear 9 years
I meant to add: I think EVERYONE should be bilingual. I'm not saying "Forget your language!" I'd just like it if people just tried to learn my native tongue in my home country. I apologize if I sound like an asshole.
gloomy_bear gloomy_bear 9 years
The legal immigration process for most "civilized" countries is complex. And as for them being convicts, it's good that someone found that out. America also doesn't allow Communists (except Cubans) and polygamists to immigrate here. As for learning English: Yes, it's a difficult language, but most of the population in America speaks English. When you go to most foreign countries to live there, the people generally don't treat you very well (in my experience.) However, if you even TRY to learn the local language, they treat you better (unless you go to any Scandinavian country; they generally have pretty good English because hardly anyone bothers to learn their languages.)
NYFashionista NYFashionista 9 years
Brittney- I completely agree with you. People usually only like to see one side of the situation. And I understand that you aren't implying at all that a complex immigration system is justification for entering the country illegally but that there are complex immigration systems around the world (PARTICULARLY third world countries where things aren't even close to as efficient and it takes months for even one step of the process to take place). As an American I just applied for dual citizenship from another "3rd world" country and it took a year and a half. I can only imagine what it must be like getting legal entry into the U.S.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
Ugh, I'm not even getting into the immigration mess. But it's really not that easy to learn another language. Like Brittney says, it's especially difficult if you aren't particularly well-educated in your mother tongue. But it's also nearly impossible to learn a language to fluency once you reach adulthood - about 30. Your brain has already been trained too much in a single language, no matter how hard you try to get another one completely perfect. But if you're bilingual (or more) before you reach that critical age, especially if you start before puberty, then it's considerably easier to acquire multiple other foreign languages, especially ones that are relatively close to those you already speak. So, as a linguist, I think giving a limit like a month or even a year to learn any language is a bit ridiculous. And even if they were able to learn a good deal of the language, it would never be up to any sort of Ivy League standard of speech. Though it might just be better than the current president's command of English..
stephley stephley 9 years
Imagine if poor countries DID address their problems, and threw the IMF and World Bank out, and stopped allowing big corporations to suck their resources dry and pay their people miniscule amounts for work outsourced from here - why we'd be begging them to stop and we'd let their tired, their hungry and their poor to slip across our borders again!
redegg redegg 9 years
Many countries have complex immigration systems, such as France or Italy. It is very difficult to move there or get visas to live. It's not just a system America has and it's easy to move everywhere else in the world. There are systems in place to protect countries that are highly desireable to live. If they weren't protected and didn't have guidelines to follow then eventually they would be overrun and no longer desireable to live in any more. Just because one country's conditions suck doesn't mean other countries should have no standards of their own. Mexico should address these problems that have it's citizens running for the borders.
linb linb 9 years
A complex immigration system is not justification for entering the country illegally.
Brittneylb Brittneylb 9 years
My grandfather came over on Ellis Island... I probably wouldn't be here today if the immigration system of today existed when he came over--- and neither would millions and millions of Americans. And if you read what I wrote, I'm not throwing out a carte blanche for illegal immigration. That's ridiculous. Living here illegally is actually a horrible way to live and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I also didnt say just people from high developed countries can come over legally, I was referring to country quotas on immigration--- and the quotas are filled up for many third world countries. That's not my opinion, that's a fact. Ask an any immigration attorney My point was simply that the immigration system is complex, and citizenship is a lot more difficult to obtain than most Americans realize. Like I stated, every immigration case is different, so it's not nearly impossible for everyone, but I've met many people who simply could not obtain a visa to come here.. people who didnt break the law, wanted to work, and truly wanted to be Americans. It happens everyday.
linb linb 9 years
Right on, syako. I'm all for anyone who wants to legally enter the country, but we can't have everyone who wants to come in just walk in. The process is difficult for a reason. I made my original comment because when I first heard about this story, I just assume they were illegal. I was surprised to find out I was wrong. Knowing how difficult it is to get in the country legally, it is a shame that they wasted their opportunity and committed a crime, and have now been deported. Sorry I threw the comments off on a tangent...
syako syako 9 years
"and the level of desire to be legal is not a factor the US government takes into much consideration when they process applications" as it shouldn't be. "it is nearly impossible for some people to come here legally." if it were nearly impossible then how did all these legal immigrants do it. I just think it sounds like you are throwing out a carte blanche for people to come here illegally when there are proper channels which are not IMPOSSIBLE to get here. And it's not just people from HIGHLY developed countries either. Yes it's complex, but for a reason - we aren't in the time and age of ellis island where you get on a ship and come - if it were like that we'd have many more problems than we're already having now in immigration.
Brittneylb Brittneylb 9 years
I dont know where your husband is from but every one's immigration case is different, and the level of desire to be legal is not a factor the US government takes into much consideration when they process applications. There may be millions of people who come over legally, but MILLIONS MORE come over illegally. Just ask any immigration attorney, it is nearly impossible for some people to come here legally. It's a lot harder for say an uneducated person from a country like Mexico--which has its quota maxed out for years--than an educated person from a highly developed country where the quota isn't maxed out. You have to have an employee sponsor you, or a family member sponsor you or are going to start a business---and even those things dont guarantee citizenship. I'm not saying people who come here illegally don't deserve to be punished... I just think we need to consider how complex and difficult our immigration system is, even for for Americans to understand.
syako syako 9 years
if they truly *wanted* to be legal they'd be legal honey. My husband did it and so did MILLIONS of other immigrants. It's not impossible and if you can't get in legally, well maybe you shouldn't come.
Brittneylb Brittneylb 9 years
Overall I think the sentence is a great idea, I just think some people may never be able to learn another language as an adult, especially if they are not literate in their first language. I have a high school and college degree, after 12 years and living in a South America, I still struggle sometimes with Spanish. I couldnt imagine trying to learn say Portuguese or some other language now.. But then again, I am not living in Portugal breaking the law.. And ...Linb I hope you arent offended by my comment, but when people say things like " actually bothered to go through the legal channels" it makes me think they have no clue what goes into coming here legally. It's not like most immigrants can just go down and apply for a visa wait a few months and come over. The system is so freaking complicated, I'm not going to go into it here. But if people are going to "bother" paying thousands of dollars to be smuggled in this country, then basically walk hundreds of miles without food or water, to take jobs that pay them next to nothing compared to American standards...don't you think they'd "bother" to come here legally if they could? I'm not saying it's right to come here illegally, I just know the overwhelming majority of people who come here illegally would come legally if they could.. they want to be legal.
mymellowman mymellowman 9 years
Piper, I'm assuming they were here legally on a visa. If they are here on a visa and commit a crime, they would be deported. If they had become or were citizens, then I do not believe they could have been deported.
piper23 piper23 9 years
I'm confused as to how a legal immigrant can be deported for this reason. Is there a specific time in country that would have excluded them being deported? Need to do some research on that. Good use of the word "convicts". At first I thought it was a bit excessive but then realized that they ARE convicts. I remember an article not too long ago on here where "illegal immigrants" were just referred to as "immigrants".
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
The judicial branch is just trying to front! They see the executive branch wildly exceeding its authority so they just stepping up to keep it real. GO JUSTICE!
linb linb 9 years
@em1282: I hope you were not offended by my comment, and if so I apologize. I didn't mean it that way.
em1282 em1282 9 years
Interesting...I wonder how far they got in terms of working on the sentence. I also think there's nothing wrong with encouraging people to learn English...overall it helps them more, doesn't it? "And, despite the circumstances, it is good to hear that some immigrants actual bothered to go through the legal channels to get here." Yes, not all of us come here through rickety vans, wearing ponchos, being chased by la migra. Thanks.
stephley stephley 9 years
They supposedly were working on the sentence, but the government says by being convicted of a crime they forfeit their legal status.
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
Why were they still deported? Were they unwilling to accept the sentence?
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