A resolution aimed at attracting more foreign businesses to Doral by declaring Spanish the second official language of the city has failed to gain support from the Doral City Council.
“Our parents and some of us who are up here came from Latin America or other countries knowing that the United States has English as its language,” said Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez. “None of us expected the country to adapt to us. We came here knowing we had to adapt to the language of the country.”
While each councilperson expressed some kind of disapproval in designating a second language for the city during a meeting Wednesday, there was support on the dais for the second part of the resolution that would have declared the city to be “multicultural.”
“I do agree with them that having a multicultural community, a resolution, I think that’s great for the city,” said Councilwoman Christi Fraga. “It shows that we are definitely open to allowing that, but as far as the bilingual part — I think it’s that part that makes some of us feel uncomfortable.”
The council voted to postpone the resolution until the March 13.
Had the council been in favor of the language portion of the resolution, it would not have impacted the way the city was run — meetings and documents would have remained in English.
“As a business owner, I know how important it is to be able to find a place where business will grow and prosper,” Mayor Luigi Boria said. “I want investors from all over Latin America to look at Doral whenever they are looking for a place to start or expand their business.”
Boria’s intention with the resolution was to tear down a language barrier that he says deters hundreds of business owners from South and Central America from expanding to the United States.
“Potential investors from all over America should know they are welcome in Doral and should not fear bringing their business to South Florida,” Boria said.
Hispanics accounted for 62.7 percent of all business owners in the city, according to a 2007 Census report.
The city currently has 8,258 firms with active business tax receipts, said chief licensing officer Ingrid P. Balza via email.
According to 2010 Census data, about 78 percent of Doral’s population of roughly 45,700 speaks Spanish at home.
This is not the first time the issue of bilingualism has surfaced in South Florida.
Miami-Dade County passed an ordinance in 1973 establishing the county as bilingual and bicultural in order to appear welcoming toward the city’s growing Hispanic population, according to Eric Foreman, an assistant professor of political science at Barry University.
That ordinance was overturned in 1980 by voters through a referendum, thus making the county government officially English-only.
Then that ordinance was overturned in 1993 by the Dade County Commission when the racial and ethnic composition of the commission changed drastically, Foreman said.
In 1988, roughly 84 percent of Florida voters chose to make English the official language of the state — a law that remains on the books.
Foreman said he was a surprised that the resolution did not pass in Doral.
“Usually, something like this wouldn’t be brought up for discussion unless they thought they had votes,” Foreman said. “I would think something controversial would be vetted and discussed among the staff before they scheduled it for a meeting.”
He said the outcome of the resolution being postponed is somewhat embarrassing for the mayor.
“It’s embarrassing for the mayor to have one of his first proposals tabled,” Foreman said.
Foreman said the issue of having Spanish as a second language may come up again in other cities, but he couldn’t predict when.
“We will see more of this issue,” Foreman said. “Maybe not immediately, since it didn’t succeed in Doral — people will have to be careful in how they plan it politically.”