The Department of Justice will review a City of Walnut proposal requiring constituents address the City Council in English or through an interpreter that they provide.
"We are trying to avoid the DOJ saying we are taking people's rights away," Mayor Mary Su told the Pasadena Star-News. "So we will table this until the next meeting so our city attorney can check with the Department of Justice."
NBC Los Angeles reports "the English-only proposal was brought to the council by local resident Wendy Barend Toy, who said she could not understand several commenters who spoke Chinese when addressing the council."
That article, which was picked up by MSNBC and various other outlets has received more than 1300 comments on the issue, most of which saying people they need to learn English to participate in local government.
"It is problematic when someone walks in here and begins speaking in Mandarin and I don't understand them, even though a few of you do," Mayor Pro-Tem Tom King told the Star-News. Three out of five members on the Walnut Council are Asian, as is about two thirds of the city's population.
Sissy Trinh, a member of local advocacy group Southeast Asian Community Alliance, told NBC that she considered the proposal a "civil rights violation" that "definitely doesn't build trust with government officials."
In the 1980s, an English-only movement took hold in Monterey Park, with measures including banning foreign-language signs and books in public libraries.