State's only Latina rep. was literally silenced during a House hearing on 'English only' bill
Rep. Leslie Acosta, the only Latina lawmaker on the state level, was shut down mid-sentence on Monday during a House hearing on the “English only” bill.
Raging Chicken Press, a blog that covers state politics, first broke the story with a video that shows Acosta being interrupted by committee chairman and bill co-sponsor Daryl Metcalfe.
Metcalfe called Acosta “out of order” for not “making a point" after two minutes of speaking, the usual amount of time allocated for questioning. Acosta insisted that she needed more time to make a point before asking her question to the witness — a common practice in legislative hearings — but Metcalfe continued to speak over her.
The witness meant to receive Acosta’s question was Robert Vandervoot, who has ties with white nationalist groups in Illinois going back to 2003, according to multiple reports from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Vandervoot was invited by Metcalfe along with four others to give their testimony.
House Bill 1506 aims to make English the official language of the commonwealth, with some restrictions. If passed, all government documents — including tax records, professional licenses, deeds, real estate records, wills, and any other court document — would not be available in any other language.
Acosta, who oversees the majority-Latino 191st district in Philadelphia, started her statement in Spanish — “which did little to please [Metcalfe],” Sean Kitchen reported for Raging Chicken Press — before switching to English to make a few points, first and foremost that “English only” is already very much the case.
“English is the de facto language of the United States, even among the immigrants,” Acosta said. “A whopping 80 percent of Hispanics believe that immigrants need to learn English in order to succeed. I believe that, and I was able to succeed in this country because I learned English.”
Before she was cut off, Acosta noted that nonetheless a bill calling for an English-only commonwealth is unconstitutional. She cited the 1923 case of Meyer vs. Nebraska in which the Supreme Court ruled that restricting foreign-language education violated a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.
On Tuesday, State Rep. Angel Cruz — the only other Latino in the State House — issued a timely press release to re-introduce his bill that would make Spanish the official language of the commonwealth.
"As the Hispanic population continues to grow, it is essential that we are prepared to properly communicate throughout this local and national demographic transformation," Cruz said in the release.
"The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the nation’s Hispanic population will reach 132.8 million within the next 30 years and constitute 30 percent of the overall population of the United States. Pennsylvania needs to be progressive and forward-thinking in how we deal with this change and instituting Spanish as our state’s official language will put us well ahead of the curve."
The memo also said that, after passing the bill in Pennsylvania, Cruz will urge Congress to make Spanish the official language of the entire U.S., and require all federal government acts be conducted in Spanish.
Make no mistake: These two bills are no fiction, nor are they new. Cruz introduced State Resolution 666 three terms back.
"This is not in retaliation to Metcalfe's action," Cruz told AL DÍA on the phone Tuesday. "We already speak English. Every document that comes out is already in English. The two fastest-growing languages [in both PA and the U.S.] are English and Spanish, so why not make our documents in both English and Spanish?"