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Latino Daily News

Wednesday February 8, 2012

AZ Supreme Court Says Alejandrina Cabrera Doesn’t Speak Enough English to Hold Office

AZ Supreme Court Says Alejandrina Cabrera Doesn’t Speak Enough English to Hold Office

Photo: Alejandria Cabrera in Arizona

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The Arizona Supreme Court has ended the aspirations of Alejandrina Cabrera to run for city council in the border town of San Luis because she does not have sufficient knowledge of English.

“For us, it was a mistaken decision. I can’t believe it,” John Minore, the attorney representing Cabrera, told Efe on Wednesday, adding that in denying his client the chance to appear on the ballot the high court is violating her constitutional rights.

Also, he said, the court’s decision could set a “dangerous” precedent for any Hispanic candidate who tries to run for political office in Arizona.

The high court decision ratifies the Jan. 27 ruling of Yuma County Superior Court Judge John Nelson.

As a result, Cabrera’s name will not appear on the ballots in the primary election being held on March 13.

The candidate was running for one of the four available council seats in San Luis, where, according to Census data, 87 percent of the residents speak a language other than English and 98 percent are of Hispanic origin.

Cabrera’s legal team had argued that although the state of Arizona requires that its public servants have an adequate knowledge of English, it does not specify what knowledge level that should be.

“It’s a mistaken decision. I was convinced that the Supreme Court would rule in our favor,” the attorney said.

Minore does not rule out the possibility of the case going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he said that this is a costly process for which his firm is now seeking a larger law office that could carry the case forward.

“This case can only be classified as a city government taking action against an individual,” Minore said.

The case arose in December when San Luis Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla began legal proceedings to get the judiciary to determine if Cabrera has sufficient command of English to serve as councilor.

Following the orders of the court and after performing an evaluation, an expert determined that Cabrera, a graduate of an Arizona high school, has enough command of English to be able to get by day to day but not to fulfill the responsibilities of a council member.

Cabrera also had trouble responding to some questions put to her in English by the judge who heard the case.

“We’re before an Hispanic council that is placing obstacles in front of its own people,” Minore said.

He said that the attack on his client was politically motivated, given that last April Cabrera collected signatures to recall the mayor after the city council approved an increase in fees and laid off 12 city employees.

In an interview conducted in Spanish with local media, Cabrera acknowledged that she needed to improve her English but she said she felt her knowledge level was adequate if one takes into account that she lives in a border city where the majority of the residents speak Spanish.