A Pennsylvania judge threatened four men with hefty jail terms if they failed to learn English. Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. was inspired to issue his ruling when he saw defendants Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario and Rafael Guzman-Mateo appear before the court with the aid of a translator. After sentencing, the judge remarked: “There’s no way young kids can be hurt by knowing how to read and write the English language.”
[The judge] sentenced them each to four to 24 months in the county prison, but paroled three of them because they have already served at least four months.
But in order for them to avoid the 24 months in prison, Olszewski ordered the men to learn to read and write the English language, earn their GED, and, within 30 days of release, get a full-time job while on parole. The defendants, who range in age from 17 to 22, are to return to court in one year with their parole officers to take an English test, according to Olszewski’s order.
“If they don’t pass, they’re going in for the 24 (months),” Olszewski said.
The judge also remarked that the ruling could help slash the "extreme costs" associated with using translators in court. Unfortunately for the judge, the court is banned from discriminating on the basis of language or national origin. By penalizing those who speak other languages, a freedom granted to all Americans, Judge Olszewski effectively slammed shut the doors of justice to non-English speakers.
The defendants are in the country legally as resident aliens. Their lawyers aren't yet sure whether or not to appeal, having never before seen such an absurd order.
Learn English or go to jail, judge tells Spanish speakers [Philadelphia Inquirer]