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11 June 2006



hat's one of the things you can't say if ordering a cheeseteak at Geno's in South Philly.

The brash owner of Geno's Steaks, in Philly, has sparked new controversy after two weeks of nearly nonstop national attention for signs posted near his take-out window that declare: "This is AMERICA. WHEN ORDERING, SPEAK ENGLISH."

Vento, 66, grinned his way through a five-minute segment Friday on ABC's Good Morning America. Since The Inquirer first reported on his signs two weeks ago, he has appeared left and right on the Web, TV and talk radio as a proud, tattooed advocate of English only for the nation's immigrants.

A city agency charged with investigating discrimination plans to file a complaint Monday that questions the legality of the signs, which Vento has said are directed at the Mexican immigrants in Geno's South Philadelphia neighborhood.

Vento told The Inquirer last month that he could not serve non-English speakers: "If you can't tell me what you want," he said, "I can't serve you."

"You're giving them a crutch" if you don't demand English, Vento told ABC.

"You can't call them 'illegal.' You got to call them 'undocumented,' " said the Philly resident. "Give me a break."

He described illegal border crossers as sources of crime and drains on hospitals, schools, and other public services. It's "wrong, wrong, wrong that a Mexican girl comes here to pop a baby" who is automatically a U.S. citizen, Vento said.

"A lot of diseases are coming in" with illegal Mexican immigrants, he said at the time. "They weren't here before. Mexicans play and drink out of the same water."

The main idea for this article is not particularly Geno's but a national situation. I've seen street signs in everything from Chinese to Hungarian. My ancestors came here and HAD to learn the language and they did. Maybe I am unsympathetic but it seems that when immigrants come here the only words they know are, "gimmee, gimmee, gimmee" or "where's the welfare office"... never "where's the job bank listing?"

And "yes" I have had many cheesesteaks from Geno's in South Philly.

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