US: Candidate with bad English barred

2012-02-08 13:04
Maricopa - Arizona's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a city council candidate with limited English skills could be kept off the ballot in a predominately Spanish-speaking town on the Mexico border.

The court upheld a lower court ruling that barred Alejandrina Cabrera from running in the March 13 Democratic primary for city council in the town of San Luis.

A Yuma County Superior Court judge last week disqualified Cabrera, aged 35, over what he called a "large gap" between her English proficiency and that required to serve as a public official.

In a brief two-page ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court did not explain why it sided with the lower court judge, but said a written decision would follow.

"We're all burned out and disappointed. I'm really surprised. I figured they'd throw this thing out," John Minore, an attorney for Cabrera, said in an interview.

"I'll protect the constitution against anyone. But this was government action against an individual," he said.

National unity

The controversy swept San Luis, a sleepy farming town hugging the Arizona-Mexico border, into a national debate over the English language's importance to American national identity.

Proponents of enforcing English as the sole language of government argue the country needs a common tongue to promote national unity, citing a long tradition of linguistic assimilation by generations of new Americans.

Immigrant rights activists say such language-based restrictions are hostile to immigrants, potentially driving a wedge between Latino communities and the rest of American society.

San Luis, a town of roughly 25 000 people about 320km southwest of Phoenix, lies just over a steel border fence from the much larger San Luis Rio Colorado, in Mexico's northern Sonora state, with a population of roughly 200 000.

The two municipalities are considered by many residents as one and the same community and Spanish is the primary language.

Minore said it was unlikely his client would appeal.

Broader political debate

"We'd love to but we can't fund it. We're just small little rural law firms. We can't afford to go forward," Minore said. "We can't donate any more time."

Cabrera, a US citizen born in Yuma, Arizona, declined to comment immediately after the ruling.

Cabrera moved to Mexico when she was young and spent much of her childhood there. She returned to Arizona for the last three years of high school.

The debate comes as several US states, led by Arizona, have adopted laws cracking down on illegal immigrants.

The San Luis city clerk ordered the ballots printed without Cabrera's name after the ruling, said spokesperson Karin Meza.

"In the narrow matter of law, obviously we were right," said Glenn Gimbut, city attorney for San Luis, which brought the suit. "But as this has steered into broader political debate, that one is above my pay grade."

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.