Saturday, April 05, 2008

An English sentence

A smart, creative judge: he knows these people need English to succeed and a little compassion from this judge and others will probably save their lives. DP

By staff reporters The four Spanish-speaking defendants before Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. probably didn't need to know the language to know they were looking at an English sentence.

Earlier last week, they had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a robbery in Hazleton. However, instead of throwing the book at them, Judge Olszewski imposed an unusual sentence.

They are required to return to his court a year from now to take an English test and show that they can speak and write the language, reports The Associated Press. If they fail, they will serve the full two years of their four-to-24-month sentence. The judge said the ruling was not meant as punishment.

In fact, it's the definition of compassion.

They can avoid incarceration by learning what assimilation -- and many other words -- mean in America.

Proficiency in their new tongue will make it that much easier for them to become part of the community instead of apart. And that will be better for them, their loved ones and the U.S.

Learning English was a rite of passage for many who were guided by Lady Liberty's light through the golden door and into their new home. They understood that the sooner they assimilated, the sooner they would be Americans.

In addition to everything else they must learn this year, the four had better know how to say, "Thank you, your honor."

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