An Arizona border town is fighting over whether a local woman has the ability to speak, read, and write English well enough to run for San Luis City Council. The matter is working its way through state courts, which will decide the issue, The New York Times
Arizona, like many states, requires politicians to speak, read, and write English. However, the laws do not define proficiency. Yuma County Superior Court Judge John Nelson ordered a linguist to evaluate the language skills of Alejandrina Cabrera after Cabrera was unable to answer a simple question about where she went to high school during a court hearing, the Times reported.
Cabrera, who acknowledges she speaks little English, told the Times that her problem in court was because of “shock.”
“My brain, my mind, was white,” she said. “That was my first time in court.”
Brigham Young English professor William Eggington recently concluded that Cabrera had “basic survival level” English.
“I admire Ms. Cabrera for her courage and ambition, and wish her well,” Eggington wrote in his report to the court, according to the Times. “However, in my studied opinion, based upon the results of the range of tests and analyses described above, she does not yet have sufficient English language proficiency to function adequately as an elected City Council member.”
San Luis, a border town of about 25,000 residents, is 90 percent Mexican-American. Cabrera is a U.S. citizen who graduated from an Arizona high school, and Spanish is the language she uses in her daily life.
The issue arose when a former mayor of San Luis and political opponent of Cabrera questioned her language skills, the Times reported.
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