PHOENIX (AP) - Until recently, Lilly Mucarsel has spoken Spanish just about everywhere since arriving in the United States from Ecuador three decades ago: at the library, the movies, the grocery store. She raised three daughters who also speak Spanish and are passing on the tradition to her American-born grandchildren.
These days, the 62-year-old Southern Californian finds herself shifting to English when she attends a baseball game or goes to a restaurant with her husband to prove that yes, she knows that language too, and to avoid the nasty looks she unfortunately gets while conversing in her native tongue.
“I notice more now with this current government that people are more impatient and there’s more of a lack of understanding,” said Mucarsel, of Anaheim, California. “When you speak Spanish, they automatically judge you thinking you don’t speak English, and that is a huge ignorant idea.”
Being multilingual in the United States brings advantages like job opportunities and social connections. But speaking something other than English in some public places also can risk drawing unwanted attention, as evidenced recently by widely viewed videos of a rant by a New York lawyer against restaurant workers and a Border Patrol agent in Montana questioning people for speaking Spanish.
In that May 16 encounter, the agent told Ana Suda and her friend he wanted to see their IDs because he overheard them conversing in Spanish in a store, and he deemed that suspiciously rare in her hometown of Havre, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Canadian border. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the episode is under review, but noted that agents have broad discretion to question people.
Afterward, Suda steered clear of blaming President Donald Trump, at least not directly, for what she and others perceive as rougher treatment from strangers.
“What I know is like, probably a year ago, a year-and-a-half ago, I started feeling more, you know, like that people say a little more things,” she said.
It’s not just Spanish; native speakers of Arabic, Farsi and many Asian and Indian tongues have long had to make the personal choice of when to stray from English. But some Latinos in particular feel the Trump administration’s harsh rhetoric and tougher policies toward immigrants from Mexico and Central America have helped turn unwelcome glances into open hostility.
“The bottom line is anti-immigrant sentiment is now a part of mainstream discourse. It is not only present in barrooms, in the heartland - it is present at press briefings in Washington, D.C.,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino....In the United States, one in five people age 5 and over speak a language other than English at home, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In immigrant-friendly Los Angeles, more than half of people do.About 60 percent of people in the country who speak another language