County Commissioner apologizes after telling Lina Hidalgo to "speak English"

Chambers County Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Tice has apologized for comments directed at Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in response to her speaking Spanish in a press conference concerning events surrounding the ITC Facility Deer Park chemical fire. 

Tice took issue with this, taking to Facebook to write "She is a joke. English, this is not Mexico". 

"If you come to this country, learn the language, or get an interpreter. You've got 300,000 Muslims, so let's speak some Arabic," he also said during a phone interview with the Houston Chronicle.

Tice later issued an apology on Facebook. 

"I think his words were insulting," said Andy Canales, co-chairman of the Latino Texas PAC. "Here in Houston, we have 145 languages that are spoken, so it's not just appropriate for public elected officials to speak to our community in multiple languages, it's also critical to the livelihood of these people."

The reaction on social media to his apology has been largely negative, with many feeling he did not respond with sincerity. 

"Whether or not his apology is sincere, I don't know, I don't know his heart," said Canales. "But it's important for us to call out those types of words that divide us."

Sincere or not, the fact that the apology was made is a symbol of progress after a misstep. Canales hopes that this builds momentum in the right direction. 

"His apology is a step in the right direction. However, we want to use his platform and the power that he has to uplift the Latino community," he said. "There are things that he can do, from creating a stronger social media presence, to reaching out to people in both English and Spanish."

Canales has high hopes for politicians that the culture towards minorities shifts in the future, with this incident serving as a catalyst.

"We're going to see how this commissioner and other politicians build upon these apologies and the actions they take moving forward."