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‘Spanish-Only’ in Texas Town

August 13, 1999

EL CENIZO, Texas (AP) _ A community on the Mexican border has declared itself a ``safe haven″ for undocumented immigrants and passed an ordinance making Spanish the town’s official language.

Any city worker who helps the U.S. Border Patrol uncover undocumented immigrants will be fired, Mayor Rafael Rodriguez said.

El Cenizo, incorporated in 1989, is an impoverished town with a high population of first-generation immigrants, both documented and undocumented. It sits alongside the Rio Grande about 10 miles south of Laredo.

Rodriguez himself does not speak English and says it’s discrimination in City Council meetings ``not to speak Spanish and explain what is going on.″

``We have a right to share our opinions and know what is happening,″ the mayor said.

The ordinances, adopted last week, stipulate that local governmental transactions be conducted in Spanish, with an English translation provided with 48 hours’ notice.

In compliance with state and federal laws, written ordinances will be adopted in English and translated into Spanish.

The safe haven ordinance bars city employees from inquiring about anyone’s immigration status.

``I would treat anyone the same, whether they’re here illegally or not,″ Rodriguez said.

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