GOP lawmaker touts English bill
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 13, 2005
Voters may decide official language; Hispanic leaders upset
Hispanic leaders responded with
indignation Wednesday to a plan by state lawmakers to declare English the
official language of Arizona.
House Concurrent Resolution 2030 would allow voters to require that most
government business be conducted in English. The state, cities and counties
could not print documents such as water bills in Spanish or any other foreign
One prominent Latino called the proposal a "slap in the face" to Hispanics, who
make up 25 percent of Arizona's 5 million residents.
"It's insulting to Hispanics and
Native Americans and anyone else who speak a different language," said Rep.
Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.
The proposal offered by Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa and co-sponsored
by five other legislators comes 16 years after voters approved an English-only
law that eventually was declared unconstitutional.
"We're an English-only nation, and our records should reflect that," Pearce
said. "If you come to America, you should speak English."
If approved by the Legislature, the measure would be on the 2006 ballot.
In 1988, Arizona voters approved the English-only law but the state Supreme
Court declared it unconstitutional because it violated free speech and
Pearce said his proposal is different from the 1988 referendum because it
doesn't keep anyone from speaking or learning other languages. It would not
apply to election ballots and documents necessary for international trade,
tourism and to protect the public's health and safety.
The measure does call for all government functions to be done in English,
including public meetings and publications.
For instance, Phoenix would no longer be able to print water bills in Spanish,
neighborhood newsletters and other documents. The bills and documents are
currently available by request.
Some state government agencies also print documents in Spanish. The Arizona
Health Care Cost Containment System, for example, offers applications in
Spanish. The English-only measure would not affect people speaking a language
privately or while conducting private business.
The resolution says the common thread binding individuals of differing
backgrounds in the United States has been language.
"I enjoy speaking Spanish, but the primary language throughout the world is
English," said Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park. "The more we get our
immigrants used to using English, the more they will be able to compete in the
No one denies the importance of learning English, some Latinos said. But
declaring English the official language is not practical because of Arizona's
proximity to Mexico, said Alejandro Chávez, a Phoenix resident and member of the
Mexican government's Institute of Migrants Abroad.
"We should be embracing other languages, not limiting our options," Chávez said
Jack Jackson Jr., a Native American and former state legislator, said he isn't
sure how Pearce's initiative would affect Indian tribes.
"It seems pointless," Jackson Jr. said. "It seems more like a continuation of
the anti-immigrant movement."
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