Should Fluency in English be a Requirement for Political Office?

America has long been known as the melting pot of the world.  It is made up of people who came here from virtually every nation on earth, and they’ve all brought their native language with them.

Our Founding Fathers knew that languages would be an issue and that they needed to decide on one official language to be used for all government and commerce.  Benjamin Franklin pushed for German as it is one of the easiest languages to learn while English is one of the harder languages to learn.  Franklin found himself in the minority and the decision was made to make English the official language of the United States of America and the language to be used in government and commerce.

With that history in mind, let’s turn our attention to the American southwest which has been overrun with Hispanics, both legal and illegal.  Many Hispanics are conscientious enough to learn English to help them live in English speaking America.  On the flip side there are thousands of Hispanics who appear to have no desire to learn English and expect the local, state and federal government to bow to their pressure to print everything in English and Spanish.  This has resulted in significant costs to government entities that can ill afford such spending in a dismal economy.

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Over twenty years ago, one of the southwestern states passed an English only law with over 70% of the popular vote.  It only took one liberal judge to ignore the direction of the people and the Founding Fathers and declare the English only law to be unconstitutional.

Now, the small border town of San Luis, Arizona has become the spotlight of the language controversy.  San Luis is located about 20 miles southwest of Yuma, has a population of 25,000 and an operating budget around $45 million.  On the surface, it looks like most other southwest suburbs, including a large Hispanic population comprising nearly 98% of the city folk.

Prior to 1993, San Luis was just an obscure little farming community that no one out of the immediate area had heard of.  On April 23, 1993, United Farm Workers association co-founder Cesar Chavez was found dead in a San Luis apartment of unspecified natural causes at the age of 66.

More recently, journalists in the area have started referring to San Luis as ‘Recall City’ as there have been seven elected officials recalled in the tiny town.

Alejandrina Cabrera was born in Yuma but raised south of the border in Mexico before returning to the US and making San Luis her home for more than 10 years now.  She has always been outspoken and has brought numerous issues to the city council including spearheading two recall drives against the mayor.

After going door-to-door campaigning for various city council candidates, Cabrera has decided to run for city council herself.  However, her local political aspirations were stalled when Yuma County Superior Court Judge John Nelson issued a ruling in which he determined that Cabrera’s command of the English language is not sufficient enough to allow her to serve in public office.

In a town of 98% Hispanics, that ruling has not set well with the community.  The court ruling is being appealed to the Arizona State Supreme Court who could issue a decision any day.

Arizona law requires that any person seeking office at local and statewide offices be able to read, write and speak English without the aid of an interpreter.  Cabrera, who has lived in the US for over ten years, says that she can read and write English better than she can speak it.  Her spoken English skills are reported to be rather limited at best.

So the question I ask you is whether or not elected public officials have a sufficient command of the English language in order to hold office, even in a community that is predominately Hispanic and Spanish speaking?

Personally, I believe that English is the official language as established by our Founding Fathers and that everyone planning on living in our country be required to learn the language.  Having lived in a southwest border state for over 30 years, I have known second and third generation Mexicans that were born in the US that could still not speak any English.  They all had the attitude that Americans had to cater to them and their language rather than the other way around.  If you don’t care enough to learn the language, then perhaps you do not truly appreciate what America has to offer and you should consider returning to your home country where it is spoken and stop trying to change our county.

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