The Arizona Supreme Court upheld a ruling that takes San Luis activist, Alejandrina Cabrera, off the city council ballot of the rural border town. Cabrera’s attorney pointed out that there is no statute in Arizona with language requirements to hold elected office and remarked that voters should be allowed to decide if Cabrera is the best person to serve their community in the city council.
Cabrera admits that she is not fluent in English, but insists that her reading and listening comprehension are sufficient for her to be a successful city council member in San Luis. San Luis is an agricultural town rubbing the U.S./Mexico border and its sister city San Luis Rio Colorado. Like many of the constituents in San Luis, Cabrera was born in Arizona and is a U.S. citizen, but spent most of her childhood in Mexico. She moved back to Arizona at 17 and finished high school there. San Luis’s population is 98 percent Latino, and less than 15% speak English at home.
The mayor of San Luis, Juan Carlos Escamilla, filed the law suit against Cabrera out of concern that her lack of English proficiency would impede her ability to serve on the city council. Cabrera told CNN that she suspects the mayor’s actions are political, revealing that she lead two unsuccessful campaigns for his recall from office.
While no statute requiring English language proficiency currently exists, Cabrera’s case caused a wave of upset throughout the the U.S. and abroad. Supporters of the Supreme Court say that English proficiency is necessary for elected officials, as they make decisions that affect the lives of others and that nothing should be lost in translation. Furthermore, English has been the official language of Arizona since 2006. Opponents say that the voters should choose who best represents them regardless of the candidate’s language skills. If voters believe Cabrera has what it takes, that should be the only opinion that matters.
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