- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 2, 2004

Enforcing the law

Regarding “Immigration fuels school-building frenzy” (Nation, April 25): Thanks for the informative and truthful article on the immigration-driven school crisis in Los Angeles.

Anyone should be able to see that building more schools is an exercise in futility. Because most of the problem stems from massive uncontrolled illegal immigration, we must take steps to control our borders and use effective interior enforcement to deport illegals.

Illegal immigration can be controlled by enacting the proper legislation to enforce our laws. The CLEAR Act of 2003 (H.R. 2671, Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal) would enable police officers to help enforce immigration law, something that should have been happening all along.


St. Louis Park, Minn.

UNFPA and abortion

The article “White House to pull support for conference,” which appeared on the front page of The Washington Times on April 26, mischaracterized the work of UNFPA, the U.N. Population Fund. I would like to set the record straight.

UNFPA does not support abortion. It abides by the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, which states, “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”

In line with this consensus, UNFPA promotes improved access to voluntary family planning to prevent unwanted pregnancies and eliminate the need for abortion. It also helps countries treat women suffering from the complications of unsafe abortion.

UNFPA does not criticize the positions of member states. Like other U.N. bodies, it derives its mandate from and promotes policies and decisions adopted by the 191 member states of the United Nations.


Head, information division

U.N. Population Fund

New York

Linguistic laws

The recently adopted Language Access Act (“Language law translates to $440,000 a year,” Page 1, April 23) fulfills the promise that all residents of the District of Columbia will be treated on equal terms in public services regardless of national origin. Since 1964, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act has prohibited discrimination based on national origin in government-funded programs. Courts have long recognized that language discrimination is little more than a pretext for discrimination against those who are foreign-born. The Language Access Act merely harmonizes District policy with this federal law.

The law, however, is more than an abstract restatement of a federal right. It will ensure fair and equal treatment by our government for a significant portion of our community. Forty-five thousand D.C. residents are Latino, and 18,000 are Asian-Pacific-American, collectively making up nearly 15 percent of the population. Many are recent immigrants. The impact of language and culture cannot be overstated. For example: According to the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, nearly 30 percent of Asian-American households surveyed in the District indicated that they are linguistically isolated — that is, no one 14 years or older speaks English “very well.” It is clear that a significant portion of Asian-Pacific Americans and Latinos in the District require language assistance.

Immigrant communities are highly productive and add considerable value to the economic and cultural life of the District. Immigrants provide necessary services, engage in business activity and pay taxes. Nevertheless, because of language barriers, many immigrants can’t access basic services. Imagine the horror of a parent who can’t get emergency medical care for a child because no providers speak her language or the frustration of a parent who is unable to communicate with a teacher to help her child achieve success. Pity the woman who is sexually harassed on the job or assaulted on the street who cannot obtain help from public officials, such as the police, because they do not understand her. The Language Access Act is nothing more than simple justice for our foreign-born neighbors.

To assume that the Language Access Act will discourage immigrants from learning English is erroneous. Studies have shown that ensuring equal access to rights, programs and services is not a disincentive for learning English. In fact, removing barriers for limited English speakers helps facilitate their mastery of the English language. For example, without a driver’s license or Social Security card, it becomes harder to enroll in English courses. Similarly, without access to quality health care, the ability to attend English courses may be denied. Parents also may lack mobility to attend such courses if they do not have access to child care services.

The Language Access Act is about ensuring equal rights among English and limited English speakers. The estimated costs of the Language Access Act are a small price to pay to preserve equal rights in the District; ensure the health, safety and success of all District residents; and comply with existing federal law.


Staff attorneys

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia


Smells like sludge?

Sean Salai’s article “Sludge prompts disease fears” (Metropolitan, Thursday) ignores important facts or reports them incorrectly. Residents from around the state, not just from Loudoun and Frederick counties, protested in Richmond. Linda J. Messick was exposed to Frederick, not Loudoun County, sludge and reported three, not two, near-fatal allergic reactions to sludge. Her doctor prescribed “epi pens,” a well-known antidote to life-threatening allergic reactions, not “a supply of needles that she can plunge into her skin,” as reported by Mr. Salai.

The more serious problem is that Mr. Salai was given stacks of information and scientific data linking sludge exposure to health problems; he ignored all of it. He interviewed 16 people who attested to sludge-related illnesses. He corresponded with Dr. David Lewis, who has published three peer-reviewed articles questioning the safety of the sludge program. He did not mention any of this data, including the following:

• A September 2002 memo from the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general states, “EPA does not know whether current regulations, when adhered to, are protective of public health.”

m A Centers for Disease Control/National Institute of Occupational Safety Health Guide for Controlling Potential Risks to Exposure to Class B Sludge: July 2002 says: “These enteric organisms are usually associated with self-limited gastrointestinal illnesses but can develop into more serious diseases in sensitive populations such as immune-compromised individuals, infants, young children and especially the elderly.”

m On Oct. 29, 2003, CBS Evening news reported on the EPA deputy administrator’s admission with regard to sludge: “‘I can’t answer it’s perfectly safe. I can’t answer it’s not safe,’ said Paul Gilman.”

Because there is no scientific evidence to show sludge is safe for public health, Mr. Salai is left quoting a state official’s personal attack against critics of sludge. This verifies the contention of Virginia residents that state and local health authorities wall themselves off from the public and from reality by refusing even to hear citizen complaints. They prefer to attack any layman or scientist who dares to criticize what remains an inadequately tested and potentially harmful product.


Loudoun Neighbors Against Toxic Sludge

Waterford, Va.

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