A councilmember in Georgia was shamed by her fellow councilmember for petitioning to add voting ballots in Spanish and Vietnamese.
Van Tran, a Vietnamese American councilmember of four years, has spent the past four months advocating for Spanish and Vietnamese voting ballots. Although her colleagues opposed the idea in April, Tran continued to fight for the ballots during meetings.
In a council meeting on July 11, fellow councilmember Dorothy Dean accused Tran of dishonoring the oath she took as an American citizen.
You, as an immigrant American, you took an oath of citizenship that was read and given to you in English. That language you swore an allegiance to. I feel as a citizen of this city and as a fellow council member. You disregarded and you dishonored those oaths that you took as an American citizen. I’d like to say that is un-American and inexcusable. Shame on you, Van Tran.
As a citizen, as an elected official, you should be encouraging citizens to learn to speak, read, and write the language in which they are citizens of this country. But instead you want to get a petition signed to include another country’s language on the American voting ballot. I’d like to let you know that offended me highly as a woman of color who’s lived in this country for 72 years, who has had to mark, stand in line to protest to get the right to vote.
Tran’s response: In an interview with WSB-TV, Tran said that Dean’s comments were insulting.
“It’s very hurtful, it’s rude and it’s offensive to me as a minority,” Tran said. “I am an American citizen and having that term (“immigrant American”) being used is showing that I’m not equal. To me, nothing is more American and patriotic than helping the American citizen to vote.”
According to the U.S. Census, Morrow’s population is 32.9% Asian and 22% Hispanic or Latino. Tran said she was motivated to add voting ballots in Spanish and Vietnamese because a significant demographic of the town is Latino or Vietnamese.
Dean doubles down: When WSB-TV asked Dean whether she stands by her comments, she responded, “I do.”
“[Tran] was not being fair to other non-English-speaking people or English-speaking people. She was only talking to Vietnamese people,” Dean claimed.
“I’ve experienced discrimination and a hard life,” she added. “I want everyone to feel that they are equal. I don’t discriminate. To me, I don’t care where you came from, what your ethnicity is.”
Tran’s supporters: At the latest Morrow City Council meeting, more than 30 people reportedly showed up in support of Tran, with citizens calling for an apology from Dean and for her resignation.
“Voting rights are for everybody,” one supporter said, according to WSB-TV.
Tran said that she was amazed by the support, noting that the chamber was packed.
Legislators denounce Dean’s comments: On Monday, 28 state legislators signed a letter condemning Dean’s comments.
As individual members of Georgia’s legislative Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI), Black, and Hispanic Caucuses, we strongly condemn these remarks, which further a damaging narrative that immigrants are not truly American. There is no official national language of the United States, a country founded by immigrants. People who do not speak English as their first language are just as American as those who do. As a state that celebrates the proud legacy of John Lewis, we know there is no more American activity, nor one that better honors the founding principles of this country, than ensuring our citizens can access their right to vote.
“For elected officials to question whether immigrant citizens ‘deserve’ to participate in the electoral process, however, is truly un-American,” the letter concludes.