A judge overseeing a child-custody case told a Mexican native that speaking only Spanish at home constituted abuse to her 5-year-old daughter.
State District Judge Samuel C. Kiser told Marta Laureano that she must speak English in conjunction with Spanish when talking to her daughter.
Language became an issue in the case when the girl’s father, Timothy Garcia, who was seeking unsupervised visits with his daughter, claimed that the only English she was learning was what he taught her. Kiser granted the father’s visitation request on Aug. 16.
At a hearing this summer, Kiser equated lack of English proficiency with ignorance and abuse.
“If she starts first grade with the other children and cannot even speak the language that the teachers and the other children speak, and she’s a full-blood American citizen, you’re abusing that child and you’re relegating her to the position of a housemaid,” Kiser said, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Laureano, who was born and raised in Mexico, speaks English fluently. But she said she uses Spanish at home because she wants her daughter, who is in kindergarten, to grow up bilingual.
“I am giving her an advantage that not everybody has,” she said.
Angry Hispanic leaders say the judge overstepped his authority.
Amarillo attorney Mark Taboada, who wasn’t involved in the child-custody case, has filed motions accusing Kiser of contempt and ridicule.
“I don’t ever want to step into his courtroom again,” Taboada said.
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