State legislators are getting a lot of credit for their unanimous passage of SB 1014, which removes the state mandated four hour English Immersion blocks for ELL students. They deserve the credit, as does Governor Ducey for signing the bill.
But I have a question. What took them so long? The English Immersion block was just as bad when it began 12 years ago as it is today.
The history of the English Immersion rule makes more sense when it is put in context. On its face it's all about how ELL students are taught, but it's more than that. It's part of Arizona's recent history of legislative efforts to punish not only immigrants specifically, but Latinos and Latino culture in general. And that includes demonizing the Spanish language.
Arizona's English Only law, passed by voters in 2000, and the resulting English Immersion ruling were followed by the "Show me your papers" law, and that was followed by a law designed to outlaw TUSD's Mexican American Studies program. The "Show me your papers" and anti-MAS laws were struck down by the courts in whole or in part. English Immersion survived its court challenges but was finally dragged down by the weight of its own failure.
Here's the timeline.
2000: The voters pass Prop. 203, a law mandating English Only education for ELL students. However, the language in the proposition is open to interpretation, and most schools are less than rigorous about following the English Only ruling.
2006: HB 2064 tightens up the language in Prop. 203 and creates a panel to decide how ELL students should be taught.
2007: Tom Horne, Education Superintendent, lays out the details of the mandatory four hour English Immersion block.
2010: SB 1070, the "Show me your papers" law, passes. It's the most rigorous anti-immigrant law in the country.
201o-2017: Court challenges to SB 1070 begin immediately. By 2017, much of the law had been struck down.
2010: HB 2281, whose purpose is to make TUSD's Mexican American Studies curriculum illegal, passes.
2011: John Huppenthal, Education Superintendent, rules that the Mexican American Studies program violates HB 2281 and needs to be eliminated or TUSD will face significant fines. In 2012, the TUSD board votes to dismantle the program.
2017: Judge Wallace Tashima rules that HB 2281 is unconstitutional because it was created out of racial animus and is in violation of the First Amendment.
2019: SB 1014 removes the four hour English Immersion mandate from ELL instruction.
One day after Ducey signed SB 1014, President Trump declared a national emergency so he can "Build a Wall!" Ducey said, "I'm with Trump."
Arizona's history of anti-Latino legislation tells the story of Republican politicians pandering to the fear felt by a large part of the Anglo community toward immigrants and Latinos in general.
Though the unanimous repudiation of the English Immersion mandate may look like the Republican majority in the legislature is coming to its senses, that they may let up on the demonization of all things Latino, the mandate from the Panderer-in-Chief to "Build the Wall!" guarantees that the party will continue to generate fear and hatred toward people crossing the U.S./Mexico border and toward Latinos already in the country.
Arizona has been at the cutting edge of the country's anti-brown, anti-Spanish crusade. Our governor's full throated endorsement of Trump's emergency declaration is all the evidence we need to realize that nothing has changed.