Arizona State Representative Steve Smith says mailing government documents in languages other than English costs taxpayers too much money and has introduced legislation to prohibit it.
While the law would exempt documents related to voting, HB 2283 would require state agencies to post non-English versions of documents online and house a printed version in the state agency’s office.
“We don’t need to print, bind and ship everything an agency does at the taxpayers’ expense,” Smith told the Arizona Republic. “We’re spending millions of dollars a year on documents that would be fine printed in English only, as our (state) Constitution says.”
But opponents see the legislation as a civil rights violation.
“This is frivolous legislation,” says Petra Falcon, the executive director of Promise Arizona, a non-profit immigrant’s rights organization. “This is an attempt to create barriers for immigrants. It’s not a major cost factor to send out mailings.”
Falcon says that immigrants and the elderly would be among the most affected by the proposed legislation.
“This would harm people who have been here for a long time,” she says. “Older people who have kept their language.”
While the Arizona Constitution already makes English the state’s official language, the Migration Policy Institute says 587,000 people speak limited English in Arizona — almost 10 percent of the state’s population.
“They teach language in our schools, but now they’re creating barriers for our communities,” Falcon says. “I’m disappointed that Arizona tends to be a state that creates division.”