English-only proposal is based on emotion
Arizona Republic
Jan. 28, 2005
Lawmaker's proposal wrong on many counts

State Rep. Russell Pearce wants to make it official: English should be the language of Arizona.

In fact, he's not stopping there. Pearce, R-Mesa, has decided to speak for 295 million Americans and change history by telling The Arizona Republic, "We're an English-only nation, and our records should reflect that."

Russell, baby, you're a sweet kid, but let me tell you this country isn't an English-only nation. It never has been and never will be. Based on what one might learn in Arizona's underfunded schools, I see where he got that impression. But the French, Scandinavians, Italians and Spanish all spoke their mother tongue when they got here.

And here's a big shock: They still do.

I wonder if anyone has told Pearce that millions of Native Americans were here before the Europeans landed and they spoke many, many languages. None of those were English.

In making English the official language, Pearce does not want to prevent folks from speaking and learning other languages. And he doesn't want to tell business they can't use Spanish to make money. In fact, for all practical purposes, little would change under the proposal except for some official state correspondence and the declaration itself.

The proposal calls for the measure to go before voters if OK'd by the state Legislature.

So if the changes are so minute and won't change how people communicate at home or in the workplace, why waste time with it?

Because language is an emotional issue. It's part of the reason Univision and other Spanish language media outlets have so many viewers and listeners. Language is a cultural connector that savvy marketers have used all the way to the bank.

But language, and in our case Spanish, can scare people, too. Even though Latinos make up only 25 percent of the population here in Arizona, only 11 percent of the state's residents speak English "less than very well," according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But that's enough for Pearce and his gang to scream how we're being taken over and should do something about it.

Other than every other boy born here in Arizona being named Jose, Pearce really has nothing to worry about. He and his cronies should know that many Hispanics in Arizona can't speak Spanish and that thousands of immigrants of all kinds pay to cram into hundreds of English as a second language classes at community colleges, churches and schools.

In urban Phoenix, South Mountain Community College offers about 80 ESL classes annually and most are packed with eager students. Phoenix College is offering 67 ESL classes this semester that are full. It's a recurring theme throughout the state.

Thousands of people are eager to learn English to make a better life, to find better jobs and to teach their children. So who isn't trying to learn English?

Like I said, there is no practical reason for this English language proposal. It's emotionally based. Its roots are in fear, and it insults those of us who know better. If these people had any guts, they would bar Spanish in all forms in every corner of Arizona society, then kick out of the state anyone who used it.

For example, they would post someone outside the Arizona Biltmore and the first landscaper to utter anything not in English would be expelled. Subdivisions would be banned from using Spanish titles, which means no rios, verdes or vistas. All Mexican food restaurants would be forced to change their menus, turning enchiladas into freedom cheese wraps.

And Native Americans would not be allowed to speak their own languages and would be confined to living on decrepit reservations.

Oh, never mind, that's happened for ages. Pearce may not know about that, either.

Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an assistant city editor at The Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281 or teclo.garcia@arizonarepublic.com.