On Saturday, Louisiana voters rejected a ballot initiative drafted by a legislator who wanted to divert $1 million from library funds for the creation of a new jail because he didn’t want Mexicans to learn English. Lafourche Parish Council Chairman Lindel Toups had hoped that defunding the library would help pay for a $25 million jail without raising taxes and more importantly, would cut programs useful to “Mexicans,” “junkies, hippies, and food stamp recipients.”
Last Wednesday, Toups told the Tri-Parish Times that he supported defunding Biblioteca Hispana, a Spanish section housed within one of nine Lafourche Parish area libraries:
They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English … Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico. There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with … Them junkies and hippies and food stamps (recipients) and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps (on the Internet). I see them do it.
In a last-minute effort to reach 55,000 potential voters, EveryLibrary, an organization that supports political library initiatives, spent $5,000 on an online social media blitz to call out Toups for launching the “worst library election in the country.” The move paid off — voters rejected Toups’ plan by about a five-to-four vote.
Toups’ racially-charged comments are at odds with the anti-immigration argument that immigrants do not want to assimilate and thus do not learn English. Quite the opposite, the Lafourche Parish library system sees at least 63 adult English learners in three separate library branches, including at Biblioteca Hispana. One of the core provisions in the now stalled Senate immigration bill is to make it necessary for immigrants to learn English. Other similar “English-only” legislation have been proposed over the years as well. Had the ballot measure passed, $800,000 would have been diverted away from library funds for the next 30 years– and would likely have a major impact on the English language classes.
Toups later said that his comments had been taken out of context, but his history of relying on racially-insensitive stereotypes says otherwise. In 2007, Toups helped to pass a “saggy-pants” public indecency law that bans the public display of underwear. At the time, he adamantly denied that the law targeted young, black men, but that it was about a lack of respect by teenagers.