Rising number of Latinos spurs English language debate in Carroll County

“Wave after wave of immigrants have come to this country over the past few hundred years and they have assimilated under one language,” said Shoemaker, who represents the county’s eastern portion. “The latest wave has not been as willing to assimilate under the English language, and that’s a problem.”

Adrian Barrera leads a crew of migrant farm workers from Mexico who pick apples at Baugher Farms. The migrants work on the farm for 8 months out of the year, then move on to work somewhere else or return to their native country until the next growing season.

Amid the quaint brick storefronts of Westminster’s Main Street, Lily’s Mexican Market sells Virgin of Guadalupe statues, sacks of dried beans and paddle-shaped cactus leaves. A mile away, the aisles of Las Palmeras grocery store are stocked with Salvadoran cheeses and pastries. A nearby Catholic church draws more than 200 people to a Spanish Mass each Sunday.

Mexican and Central American immigrants have flocked to Carroll County over the past decade, drawn by pastures and orchards that remind them of the rural villages in which they were raised. Some followed family members here; others sought to live among those who share their traditional values. Many say they felt welcome here, at least until a commissioner began a push to make English the county’s official language.

“We support the economy here. We respect the laws. We pay rent. We pay taxes,” said Gregoria Hernandez, who opened Lily’s with her husband last year. “We’re a fountain of business. Why would they not want us here?”

But the changing face — and lexicon — of Carroll County has some local leaders concerned. County Commissioner Haven Shoemaker proposed the official-language measure, an effort, he says, to be proactive.


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