Intent of Nguyen lost in race |

Intent of Nguyen lost in race

Peter Prengaman

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Republican congressional candidate linked to a threatening mailing targeting Hispanics claims the intent of a letter he did not authorize was lost in translation.

Tan Nguyen, whose campaign headquarters and house have been searched in a widening voting rights probe, told reporters Sunday that the media had poorly translated the Spanish-language letter sent by a campaign manager to 14,000 Hispanic families in Orange County.

Nguyen said the word “emigrado,” translated by the media as “immigrant,” actually referred to a legal permanent resident, or green card holder.

Nguyen argued the sentence warning that immigrants could be jailed or deported for voting referred to green card holders who cannot vote, and not immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens who can.

Naturalized citizens have the same rights as citizens born in the United States with one exception, they can’t run for president.

As a permanent resident you can only vote in local and state elections that do not require you to be a citizen.

There are in fact criminal penalties including deportation, for voting when you are not a citizen and it is a requirement for voting.

Nguyen declined to say who came up with the idea for the letter or who translated it into Spanish, but argued the controversy amounted to a “debate over translation.”

The word “emigrado” comes from the verb emigrar, which means to emigrate. It’s mostly used in the past participle form, for example, “ellos han emigrado de Mexico,” or “they have emigrated from Mexico.”

There is a difference between an emigrant and an immigrant.

“Si es emigrado,” or “if you are emigrated” – is an awkward construction. But regardless, someone who has emigrated from his or her native country, and is now in a foreign country, is an immigrant.

“The word ’emigrado’ in this usage has to mean immigrant. It can’t mean anything else,” said Roberto Ignacio Diaz, chair of the Spanish and Portuguese department at the University of Southern California.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency charged with issuing immigrant visas, doesn’t use the term “emigrado” to refer to any particular immigration status, said agency spokeswoman Marie Sebrechts.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign, is challenging Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat representing California’s 47th Congressional District.

His explanation of the letter, which on Sunday included handing out copies of what he said was the original English text, only created more questions that he declined to answer.

“It’s starting to seem a little bit like a circus,” said Jose Solario, Santa Ana city councilman and Democratic candidate for the 69th Assembly District seat. Solario, a U.S. citizen whose parents brought him from Mexico as a baby, was one of the thousands receiving the letter.

Among issues raised by the letter is its contention that the government is creating a “new computerized system” to verify the names of “all new registered voters” participating in this election.

Under the Help America Vote Act, states are revamping their voting systems, but for all registered voters, not just new ones.

The letter also says that “organizations against immigration will be able to request information from this new computer system.”

Much voter information can generally be accessed by the public, but there is no way to verify a voter’s claimed U.S. citizenship status just by looking at a registration form.

“Tan Nguyen has admitted that his campaign is responsible for the letter. The only person suggesting that the letter applies only to illegal immigrants is Tan Nguyen,” said Department of Justice spokesman Nathan Barankin.

Associated Press Writers Don Thompson in Sacramento and Gillian Flaccus in Santa Ana contributed to this report.

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