Spanish-Speaking Lawmaker Silenced at “English-Only” Bill Hearing

GOP Rep. Daryl Metcalfe didn't want to hear what Philadelphia Democrat Leslie Acosta had to say.

State Rep. Leslie Acosta | Photo courtesy of Acosta's office

State Rep. Leslie Acosta | Photo courtesy of Acosta’s office

Two years after turning off an openly gay lawmaker’s microphone because allowing him to speak would have been an “open rebellion against Almighty God,” state Rep. Daryl “The Interruptor” Metcalfe stopped the General Assembly’s first and only Latina lawmaker from speaking about a proposal to make English the official language of Pennsylvania.

Metcalfe cut off his colleague Leslie Acosta, a Democrat from Philadelphia, as she was arguing that the proposal is unconstitutional at a hearing Monday.

Acosta began her remarks in Spanish.

“Buenos días. Como estas?” she said, adding that she is bilingual.

“Thank you, Rep. Acosta, but your questions will have to be posed in English for the committee to understand,” Metcalfe responded.

“I am going to address this in English,” she said. “But I want you to understand what we’re trying to do here. This is disruptive. This is divisive. And this is likely unconstitutional.”

After Acosta continued to talk for about two minutes, Metcalfe told her that she was only allowed to ask questions, not make statements.

“You’re out of order,” said Metcalfe. “I’ve asked for a question.”

“I’m trying to make a point here,” Acosta responded.

“You are not making points,” he said. “We’re asking questions of the testifiers and we are running out of time.”

After going back and forth for about a minute, Metcalfe called on another legislator to speak. You can watch a video of the incident below:

What does Acosta have to say about the episode today, after the likes of Jezebel and ThinkProgress covered it? She told us Metcalfe allowed Republican legislators at Monday’s hearing to make statements about the legislation.

“He broke the protocol,” she said. “It’s a shame we’re dealing with this in the 21st century, having to defend myself against this man who’s totally disruptive and racist.”

Metcalfe’s legislation would require all the state government’s real estate records, tax records, professional licenses, court documents, deeds and wills to be recorded and maintained in English only. It would also prohibit the General Assembly from appropriating any state dollars “to promote the use of or demonstrate a preference for any language other than the official language,” with a handful of exceptions.

Acosta said Metcalfe’s bill would burden immigrant families and may violate the U.S. Constitution. Courts in other states have struck down “English-only” laws, or parts of them, ruling that they are unconstitutional.

“People who come to this country must learn English to succeed,” said Acosta. “However, I disagree with the fact that English should be the official language.”

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Latino adults say they can speak English “pretty well” or “very well,” and 87 percent of Hispanics say immigrants need to learn English to succeed in the United States.

Metcalfe did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He promoted his legislation on Facebook earlier this week, writing, “One common language unifies a people which is the reason that liberals oppose English as our official language! The citizens of our state and nation need to unify against those domestic and foreign enemies who are trying to destroy the USA!”

One-hundred-and-seventy people “liked” his post.