Tucson Citizen
Friday, January 14, 2005

House's English-only bill drawing heat

The Associated Press

PHOENIX - A plan by some state lawmakers to make English the official language of Arizona is angering some Latinos in a state where one-quarter of the residents are Hispanic.

The House measure would allow voters to require that most government business be conducted in English. State, cities and counties could not print documents including water bills in Spanish or any other foreign language.

If approved by lawmakers, the measure would be on the 2006 ballot.

"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 Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, is co-sponsored by five legislators.

"We're an English-only nation and our records should reflect that," Pearce said. "If you come to America, you should speak English."

Arizona voters approved an official English law in 1988, but the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional because it violated free speech and equal-protection rights.

Pearce said his proposal is different because it doesn't keep anyone from speaking or learning other languages.

The measure would not apply to election ballots and documents necessary for international trade, tourism and to protect public health and safety. It calls for all government functions to be done in English, including public meetings and publications.

"I enjoy speaking Spanish, but the primary language throughout the world is English," said state 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 worldwide economy."