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As Obama tackles immigration, Texas legislator suggests immigrants Americanize names

April 9, 2009 |  9:26 am

Immigrants march for their rights

The White House is making plans to roll out an immigration reform proposal next month, one that would make good on President Obama's promise to Hispanic voters to tackle the thorny issue.

On tap, White House aide Cecilia Munoz told reporters this week, is a reform package that "controls immigration and makes it an orderly system," one that would also provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

With 6 million Americans out of work, many of them blue-collar employees who believe immigrants are pushing them out of their jobs, conservatives predicted tough political sledding for any reform effort. "They will face a bloodbath," GOP commentator Pat Buchanan said this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

But one Republican legislator in Texas has a unique spin on how to help immigrants, and even second- and third-generation Americans, assimilate. Republican Betty Brown said this week she thinks Americans of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent should change their names to make it easier for poll workers to identify them.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the comment came late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting because they may have a legal trans-literated name and then a common English name used on driver’s licenses or school registrations.

Brown, who with her husband Ron operates a ranch near Terrell on land that has been in her family for four generations, suggested that Asian Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible. She said:

Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here? ... Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?

No word on how Ko responded. Perhaps, like us, he was speechless. But Texas Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie found plenty of words. He accused Republicans in Texas of trying to suppress votes with a partisan identification bill and Brown of "adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments. "Brown spokesman Jordan Berry said Brown was not making a racially motivated comment but was trying to resolve an identification problem. He also said Democrats are trying to sensationalize her comments because polls show most Texans support requiring identification for voting.

-- Johanna Neuman

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