Recent news items published and disseminated in English-language and Spanish-language media outlets have dominated the news in Millville, NJ, and across the State of New Jersey and the Delaware Valley. The reporting centers on what Millville Municipal Court Judge, Jason Witcher, claims that defendants with Latino-sounding surnames were denied the option of attending virtual hearings.
A defendant, who didn’t want to give his name for fear of reprisal by Millville, NJ Municipal Court Officials, said he felt that Limited English Proficient persons, mostly Latinos, are being discriminated against based on their race or ethnic origin and urged victims of this discriminatory practice to report this to Millville, NJ Municipal Court Officials and contact the American Civil Liberties Union for legal advice and assistance.
The City of Millville in Cumberland County, New Jersey, has great diversity amongst its population. As part of this diversity, many residents were not born in this country. Therefore, English may not be the first language for many. As a result, they may need help communicating in English. In addition, not speaking in English and accompanying cultural differences may affect their fully integrating into the majority English-speaking and Americanized prevailing culture. Let’s be clear, the diverse White European groups of immigrants that arrived and settled in Millville and other towns in South Jersey experienced similar language communication problems.
Communicating clearly and effectively with residents, governing officials, and municipal government personnel is an integral part of the job of public employees, whose job it is to provide services to all taxpaying residents and others. It is perfectly appropriate and sometimes necessary for a public employee’s job to communicate with persons with Limited English Proficiency challenges. This may include explaining local ordinances and obtaining permits: licenses, and other services.
Many Hispanic or Latinos sacrificed much to come to Millville, NJ, and other cities in South Jersey to build a better life for their families. Millville is a lovely area where city officials and businesses have forged a value-for-value relationship with the growing Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. These residents are thriving in a city that continues to grow even more versatile. They should adapt to following federal Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires recipients of Federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make programs, services, and activities accessible to persons with Limited English Proficiency.