MORROW, Ga. — A Morrow city councilwoman is being called “un-American” for trying to add ballots in Spanish and Vietnamese in an upcoming city-level election.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne spoke with councilwoman Van Tran about the pushback she’s getting.
Tran said growing up in Vietnam, which was heavily influenced by communism, she didn’t know the freedom she was missing until she came to the United States where she became a citizen.
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Morrow city councilwoman Dorothy Dean said she first demonstrated for civil rights when she was about 13 years old in Mississippi.
“I’ve experienced discrimination and a hard life,” Dean said. “I want everyone to feel that they are equal.”
“You, as an immigrant American, you took an oath of citizenship that was read and given to you in English,” Dean said during a city council meeting. “That language you swore an allegiance to. I feel as a citizen of this city and as a fellow council member. You disregarded and you dishonored those oaths that you took as an American citizen. I’d like to say that is un-American and inexcusable. Shame on you, Van Tran.”
“So I am an American citizen and having that term (”immigrant American”) being used is showing that I’m not equal,” Tran said. “To me, nothing is more American and patriotic than helping the American citizen to vote.”
The two women with narratives about the price of freedom are at odds.
“By calling her an immigrant American, are you treating her as less than an American?” Winne asked. “No. Less than an American?” Dean responded. “No. I’m not. That comment was out of context.”
Tran alleges the way Dean expressed herself at the recent council meeting was offensive.
“It’s insulting. It’s very hurtful, it’s rude and it’s offensive to me as a minority,” Tran said.
“Do you stand by your comments?” Winne asked. “I do,” Dean responded.
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Dean said she took issue with Tran over a proposal to add Vietnamese and Spanish translations to the English on Morrow’s municipal ballots, which Tran advocated for both in the council and later during a petition drive.
“As a citizen, as an elected official, you should be encouraging citizens to learn to speak, read, and write the language in which they are citizens of this country,” Dean said during the council meeting. “But instead you want to get a petition signed to include another country’s language on the American voting ballot. I’d like to let you know that offended me highly as a woman of color who’s lived in this country for 72 years, who has had to mark, stand in line to protest to get the right to vote.”
Tran said recent census numbers showed 32.9 percent of Morro’s population to be Asian and said that the vast majority of that is Vietnamese and the data showed that 22 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino.
Dean said she didn’t think it was appropriate that Tran was soliciting signatures for a petition written only in Vietnamese and not in English so more people could understand it.
“She was not being fair to other non-English-speaking people or English-speaking people. She was only talking to Vietnamese people,” Dean said.
Tran said there are versions of the petition in Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.
“I don’t discriminate. To me, I don’t care where you came from, what your ethnicity is,” Dean said.
Morrow Mayor John Lampl said the city of Morrow embraces its ethnic diversity which is reflected in many ways including the makeup of its city council and that the city already provides translators to assist voters with Vietnamese and Spanish language in municipal elections.
Lampl said Morrow contracts with Clayton County elections to run its municipal elections and the county has blessed the city’s practice of providing the interpreters.
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