Barring a citizen from holding public office because a judge doesn't think her English is good enough? Yikes.
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — When Alejandrina Cabrera speaks English, her face takes on an expression somewhere between deep discomfort and outright despair. Her tongue, which darts around her mouth in her native Spanish, slows to a crawl.
“I speak little English,” she said in a hesitant and heavily accented interview in her lawyer’s office. “But my English is fine for San Luis.”
Mrs. Cabrera may be able to get her point across in English, but whether she is proficient enough in the language to serve on the governing board of this bilingual border city has deeply divided the 25,000 residents.
What began as an effort by political opponents to block Mrs. Cabrera from the ballot for a seat on the City Council has mushroomed into an uncomfortable discussion of just how fluent Arizona officeholders need to be. Like many other states, Arizona has long required politicians at all levels to speak, read and write English, but the law fails to spell out just what that means. Is grade-school knowledge enough? Must one speak flawlessly? Who is to decide?
For the record, Arizona law states that "the ability to read, write, speak, and understand the English language sufficiently well to conduct the duties of the office without aid of an interpreter shall be a necessary qualification for all state officers and members of the state legislature."
Can't wait to watch a lawyer defend this in court.