Hablas English? Arizona Candidate Asked to Prove English-Language Skills

This year, Alejandrina Cabrera put city officials of San Luis, Arizona in the hot seat.

Twice, Cabrera and the group she heads, For a San Luis with a Future, launched unsuccessful recall drives against the mayor.

Now, Cabrera, who is vying for a seat on the City Council, finds herself in the hot seat.

Last week, the council approved a motion asking for verification that Cabrera meets a state law requiring any person holding office in the state, county or city to speak, write and read English.

The Yuma Sun reports the action originated from a Dec. 14 complaint made by former mayor Guillermina Fuentes, who alleged that Cabrera is not fluent in English.

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Fuentes alleges she has interpreted for Cabrera because in many cases she did not understand what was being said.

Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla says there was no political motivation behind the initiative. The Yuma Sun reported that the mayor said he wants to resolve the matter before ballots are printed for the March elections.The newspaper said the city wants to establish a precedence for future cases.

City Attorney Glenn Gimbut explained the motion could result in a court order asking Cabrera to verify her English abilities adding the city might ask a linguistics expert to test Cabrera.

Cabrera is no stranger in the local political scene.

She launched two unsuccessful campaigns to recall the San Luis mayor this year.

The recall efforts were prompted by utility rate hikes and city employee layoffs. City council members originally also were targeted before just the mayor ended up as the focus.

The mayor is quoted in the Yuma Sun as saying: "We are not a little ranch, we are a large community. We represent a lot and need to be prepared."

“A position like this requires a person to have minimal understanding (of English) in order to read resolutions and other documents," he says in the Yuma Sun. "It's a requirement and it must be obeyed.”

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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