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."

  • faerrab - 2012-02-08 13:25

    America - Land of Democracy and Equality !!!!

  • Shistirrer - 2012-02-08 13:30

    If the ability to speak proper English was a prerequisite for South African politics, parliament would be three quarters empty.

      Fidel - 2012-02-08 17:23

      If the ability to speak proper Zulu was a prerequisite for British politics, the British parliament would be 100% empty.

  • Brian - 2012-02-08 13:31

    If you can't speak English in an English-speaking country ...... I agree with he decision.

  • faerrab - 2012-02-08 13:55

    SO an English speaking person must communicate in English to a predominantly Spanish community US has become a Police State. SH@#rer Most Europeans cant speak English or understand so don't moan about SA parliamentarians as they can they at minimum understand English ........ You must can like be tolerant hoor my couzin

      Shistirrer - 2012-02-08 15:47

      I would like to see a basic language test before SA politicians are allowed to give TV interviews. They should be able to pronounce at least ONE of the following words properly (I'm not asking for much): economically, category, workers, bird, purchase, important. :-)

  • Iftikhar - 2012-02-09 00:56

    Speaking English does not promote integration into British, American and Australian societies, and broaden opportunities. English speaking Muslim youths are angry, frustrated and extremist, thanks to English language. English language is not only a lingua franca but also lingua frankensteinia. Human right are also covers linguistic right. Cultural and linguistic genocide are very common. British schooling is murdering community languages like Arabic, Urdu and others. English is today the world killer language. Linguistic genocide is a crime against humanity and British schooling is guilty of committing this crime. The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

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