Acosta slams move to silence her views on ‘English Only’ bill

ATTENTION: A video of the House State Government Committee public hearing in which Rep. Acosta was prevented from expressing her views is available here. For help with technical difficulties, or for more information, contact (717) 787-7895.

HARRISBURG, Sept. 22 – State Rep. Leslie Acosta, D-Phila., said she was unfairly prevented from expressing her views on proposed legislation designating English as the official language of Pennsylvania in a recent House State Government Committee public hearing.

Acosta said she began speaking in both English and Spanish to prove a point during the two minutes she was allotted to speak. She added when she started to share her disagreement with the bill, the Republican chairman of the committee abruptly shut off her microphone.

“What happened to free speech in Pennsylvania?” Acosta asked. “Whether or not I agreed with the premise of the legislation, I should have been able to express my opinion. It’s dangerous to stifle thoughtful dialogue in a democracy, which is exactly what happened here.”

Acosta, the first Latina to be elected to the state legislature, added she thinks the so-called “English Only” bill sends the wrong message to residents who want to honor their Spanish-speaking heritage.

“I certainly understand the importance and necessity of speaking English here in Pennsylvania,” Acosta said. “In most communities, it’s necessary to speak English if you want to succeed. But that doesn’t mean Spanish speakers should forget about our culture and history. I am a proud member of a Hispanic family who migrated to the United States from Puerto Rico seeking economic opportunity. I’ve found success here in Pennsylvania because I embrace all the cultural experiences that have made me who I am.”

House Bill 1506 would require all official acts of state and local governments, including the printing of government documents, to be written in English. It would also ban any level of government from enacting a preference, or taxpayer funding, for any language other than English – except in the promotion of international commerce and tourism; in cases when public health, safety and justice require the use of another language; and in instruction of foreign language courses or for English as a second language classes for students.

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are praising this bill as a cost-saving measure, since governments won’t have to translate documents into Spanish,” Acosta said. “As much as I support efforts to cut costs, Republicans have not said how much money this legislation would save, or much else that would sell the bill as a positive policy change.”

Acosta said she looks forward to more discussion about H.B. 1506, and hopes the public will make their views known to their state lawmakers.

“This piece of legislation has the potential to disenfranchise a sizable number of Pennsylvanians who simply want to do what’s best for themselves and their families,” Acosta said. “Instead of alienating them, we should work with them so that we can all succeed here in the Keystone State. We are fortunate to live in a country that highlights our differences in a positive way. As Americans, our core values unite us, and this American identity celebrates cultural diversity instead of punishing it.”

ATTENTION: A video of the House State Government Committee public hearing in which Rep. Acosta was prevented from expressing her views is available here. For help with technical difficulties, or for more information, contact (717) 787-7895.

CONTACT: Megan Lello
House Democratic Communications Office
Phone: 717-787-7895
Email:
mlello@pahouse.net

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