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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Prop. 103 deserves a ‘no’ vote

    Arizona’s official state neckwear is the bolo tie, our official state bird is the cactus wren and our official state fossil is petrified wood. Feel like these “”official”” designees aren’t inane enough? Have a burning need to add to this litany? Then Proposition 103 is for you.

    The ballot measure would amend the Arizona Constitution to instate English as Arizona’s official language.

    But, unlike a referendum to change our state bird, this measure is more than inane. It’s both unnecessary and xenophobic, not to put too fine a point on it.

    The measure would make English the official (read: only) language of voting ballots, public schools and government functions. It requires the state to “”preserve, protect and enhance”” the role of English in our state, by “”avoiding any official actions that ignore, harm or diminish the role of English as the language of government”” and “”provid(ing) services, programs and publications”” in English.

    According to the official language of the bill, the state’s recognition of linguistic diversity of our state has “”promot(ed) division.”” Want to really promote division? Then pass a measure that effectively makes the speakers of non-English languages second-class citizens.

    If this seems regressive, that’s because it is. Arizona voters actually passed a similar measure by a 50.8 percent majority in 1988, adding an article to the state Constitution stipulating that English is our state’s official language. However, the measure was later struck down when sections of it were found to violate the First Amendment. So, Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, has introduced a “”new and improved”” version of the measure – containing a severability clause. That means that if part of this law is found unconstitutional, it can be removed without taking the entirety of the law off the books.

    This bill is clearly intended to come across as a move to “”get tough”” on illegal immigrants in the state. But let’s get one thing straight: There are people in Arizona who do not speak English who are not illegal immigrants.

    This proposition is an outgrowth of a popular phobia that immigrants are rejecting English en masse. This knee-jerk reaction has been around almost as long as America has had immigrants. With each new wave of immigration, nativists have bemoaned the supposedly imminent demise of English. It hasn’t happened yet, and it’s highly unlikely that English is going to be destroyed as a language now. English acquisition rates among Hispanic immigrants – clearly the group at whom this measure is targeted – are at least equal, if not higher than those among immigrants from other areas. And among all immigrants, learning English remains as important as ever – in nearly all immigrant families, English is the dominant language by the second generation.

    Establishing English as our official language is needless showboating; English is already the de facto language of commerce and education in our state, and not knowing English is already harmful for those who don’t speak it.

    When it comes down to it, this bill won’t help anyone; it doesn’t provide any funding for English education programs. However, this bill will likely result in costly litigation – both for violations of the law and challenges to the legislation itself.

    Arizona doesn’t need this. It’s smoke and mirrors to divert attention from our state’s real problems.

    So, let’s celebrate our linguistic diversity and leave initiatives like this one in the past, where they belong. Do your state a favor and vote no on this ridiculous proposition.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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