Pop Quiz: Why Did PA State Rep. Leslie Acosta Get Cut Off?

In a sadly unsurprising breach of House protocol on Monday, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (Guess) cut Rep. Leslie Acosta (D), the only Latina representative in the state House before she was allowed to ask a question during the question and answer period.  Now put your notebooks and smart phones away, because it is time to test your knowledge of Pennsylvanian politics.

  1.  Why did Rep. Metcalfe cut off Rep. Acosta?
  • a) Because Rep. Acosta is a Latina.
  • b) Because Rep. Acosta is a woman.
  • c) Because Rep. Metcalfe is a raging asshole.
  • d) All of the above.

And……pencils down.  I’m sorry, it was a trick question. The correct answer is actually “e) Because the GOP has been taken over by a group of racist, misogynist, nativist trash desperately trying to hold on to the olden days when white men controlled everything, women knew their place (the kitchen), and members of other races stayed in their ghettos unless a garden needed tending, clothing needed laundered, or a mansion needed a butler.”  While each of the given answers is technically correct, the true root cause is “e” so I am arbitrarily failing the lot of you.  Kinda like Rep. Metcalfe arbitrarily cut Rep. Acosta off before she could ask a question.

Anyway, the story.  The Pennsylvania House, seeing as my home state is in no way going through a serious budget crisis caused by the state GOP believing that “compromise” means Gov. Wolfe giving in to all of their demands, has decided that the declaration of English as the official language of Pennsylvania is an appropriate use of tax dollars.  While Pennsylvania’s proximity to the Mexican border definitely makes this an issue constantly on the mind of every Pennsylvanian, your guess is as good as mine as to why the state GOP feels this bill is necessary.  Are they just avoiding discussing AG Kathleen Kane out of fear that she’ll leak embarrassing “sexts” they sent using state accounts?  (Not to change the subject, but damn it, AG Kane, please resign already.  Innocent or guilty, you are just making the whole party look bad now.)  Or is this just another part in the GOP’s masterful Latino Outreach Program?

Monday’s hearing on the bill was, well, let’s just let Think Progress explain it:

The hearing on Pennsylvania’s “English-only” bill was framed as a question and answer session, where lawmakers ask witnesses about different aspects of the bill. These are similar to Congressional hearings, where lawmakers have an allotted time to make statements about what they believe, and then end with a question. On Monday, Acosta was attempting to question witness Robert Vandervoot, a white nationalist testifying in support of the bill.

So there are two things I want to make clear here.  First off, no one just asks a question during these hearings.  That’s why the time limit is two minutes or so and not 15 seconds.  Representatives use the time to make a point, flesh out the question they are going to ask, make a really short speech, whatever, as long as they stay within their allotted time frame House protocol dictates the Representative is allowed to finish.  Second, the state GOP had a white nationalist testify in the House in support of this bill.

A white nationalist.

I have to hand it to the GOP, this Latino Outreach Program is brilliant.

Rep. Acosta, who is once again the only Latina in the PA House, began her time allotment by speaking in Spanish before switching over to English, no doubt giving Chairman Metcalfe a raging anger boner.  Then:

She then talked about how she too believed learning English was necessary for immigrants to succeed, but expressed concerns about the Constitutionality of requiring all government records to be in one language. In 1998, Arizona’s English-only law was ruled unconstitutional because it “unfairly interfered with the access to government by those who did not speak the language.”

In the middle of that point, Metcalfe interrupted. “You’re out of order,” he said. “I asked for a question.” Acosta then said she was “making a point,” and Metcalfe said “You’re not making points.” Acosta responded that she technically had two minutes to ask a question, to which Metcalfe retorted, “You don’t have two minutes.” Acosta said she had “the right to make my statement,” and Metcalfe said he would come back to her at the end “if we have time for you to finish your comment,” before turning her microphone off.

For those keeping score at home, that’s a white nationalist allowed all the time he wants to speak, followed by the one Latina in the room having her microphone cut off after being called “out of order.”  I’m amazed he managed not to use the word “uppity.”  Like me, Rep. Acosta was not amused.

Acosta, however, told ThinkProgress that she was appalled not only by how she was treated at the hearing, but by the fact that a white nationalist was allowed to speak before state government officials.

“This is overt racism in the 21st century. We’ve got to call it like it is,” she said. “It has no place in the House of Representatives. I’m on this and I’m not letting go.”

Why is PA even considering this bill?

Though America does not have an official language, Pennsylvania is vying to be the 32nd state to have their official state language be English. Vandervoot, who heads the advocacy organization ProEnglish, told ThinkProgress earlier this month that “one common language” is necessary for “a common bond of unity.”

“[M]ulticulturalism is actually what’s divisive and taking away from our unity,” he said.

Others, however, decry the push as inherently racist. “English-only is incredibly divisive because it sends the message that the culture of language minorities is inferior and illegal,” reads a statement from the immigrant advocacy group League of United Latin American Citizens. “With a dramatic increase in hate crimes and right wing terrorist attacks in the United States, the last thing we need is a frivolous bill to fuel the fires of racism.”


English-only laws are generally pushed by groups and individuals who take strong conservative stances on illegal immigration in general. Indeed, Metcalfe is the founder of a coalition of state legislators that work to eliminate “all economic attractions and incentives … for illegal aliens” and “secur[e] our borders against unlawful invasion.”

Metcalfe and the English-only bill’s co-sponsors assert that the measure would save government money currently being used to translate documents, though they do not assert how much is being spent, or how much would be saved.

That last paragraph is the main point.  Personally, I believe that immigrants to the United States should make an effort to learn English, not because of any inherent superiority of the language, but  rather to facilitate their acclimation to the nation.  I don’t think it should be mandatory, just encouraged.  If I moved to France, even if I was living in a community of English speakers, I would still make an effort to learn French to make my life easier if for no other reason.  Rep. Metcalfe and crew claim that this bill would save tax payers money and say that is the reason they are sponsoring it, yet the savings is never defined.  Come on, if the money was really the issue, the bills co-sponsors would be on point with exact figures detailing how much money is spent translating documents and hiring interpreters.  Instead we get the abstract concept of “savings” while my dog goes absolutely nuts.

Psst.  Rep. Metcalfe?  It’s not a dog whistle if we all can hear it.  Inviting a white nationalist to testify in support of your bill kinda gives the game away.

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