Legal Status of official English in Arizona

In 1986, this state had passed a referendum declaring English its official language, but it was struck down by a state court ruling, this state an official English ammendment to their state constitution. It was struck down by an Arizona judge as unconstitutional under federal law despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.

ProEnglish founder Bob Park had defended the law to the U.S. Supreme Court. The number of Arizonans who speak little or no English has risen 147% since 1990.

Proposition 106 was drafted to address the concerns raised by the courts about the 1986 amendment. In 2006, it passed by a 74% majority.

More than a quarter (25.8 percent), or more than one million, of this state’s residents speak a language other than English in their home. More than 100,000 households are linguistically isolated. The most common of these languages are Spanish, Navajo, German, and Chinese.

In 2000, Arizona passed a law requiring the use of English immersion programs in public schools for students who did not speak English. Studies had found that Arizona’s incumbent system of bilingual education was badly failing Arizona’s students. The law excluded programs designed to maintain Native American languages, and students who obtained waivers.

Official English Law in Arizona

PROPOSITION 106 (2006)

Article XXVIII. English as the official language

1. Definitions Section
In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

“Government” includes all laws, public proceedings, rules, publications, orders, actions, programs, policies, departments, boards, agencies, organizations and instrumentalities of this state or political subdivisions of this state, as appropriate under the circumstances to a particular official action.

“Official action” includes the performance of any function or action on behalf of this state or a political subdivision of this state or required by state law that appears to present the views, position or imprimatur of the state or political subdivision or that binds or commits the state or political subdivision, but does not include:

  • (a) The teaching of or the encouragement of learning languages other than English.
  • (b) Actions required under the federal individuals with disabilities education act or other federal laws.
  • (c) Actions, documents or policies necessary for tourism, commerce or international trade.
  • (d) Actions or documents that protect the public health and safety, including law enforcement and emergency services.
  • (e) Actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants.
  • (f) Using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.
  • (g) Using or preserving native american languages.
  • (h) Providing assistance to hearing impaired or illiterate persons.
  • (i) Informal and non-binding translations or communications among or between representatives of government and other persons if this activity does not affect or impair supervision, management, conduct or execution of official actions and if the representatives of government make clear that these translations or communications are unofficial and are not binding on this state or a political subdivision of this state.
  • (j) Actions necessary to preserve the right to petition for the redress of grievances.

“Preserve, protect and enhance the role of English” includes:

  • (a) avoiding any official actions that ignore, harm or diminish the role of English as the language of government.
  • (b) protecting the rights of persons in this state who use English.
  • (c) encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the English language.
  • (d) to the greatest extent possible under federal statute, providing services, programs, publications, documents and materials in English.

“Representatives of government” includes all individuals or entities during the performance of the individual’s or entity’s official actions.

2. Official language of Arizona
The official language of the state of Arizona is English.

3. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language; right to use English

  • a.) Representatives of government in this state shall preserve, protect and enhance the role of English as the official language of the government of Arizona.
  • b.) A person shall not be discriminated against or penalized in any way because the person uses or attempts to use English in public or private communication.

4. Official actions to be conducted in English
Official actions shall be conducted in English.

5. Rules of construction
This article shall not be construed to prohibit any representative of government, including a member of the legislature, while performing official duties, from communicating unofficially through any medium with another person in a language other than English if official action is conducted in English.

6. Standing; notification of attorney general; recovery of costs

  • a.) A person who resides or does business in this state may file a civil action for relief from any official action that violates this article in a manner that causes injury to the person.
  • b.) A person who resides or does business in this state and who contends that this article is not being implemented or enforced may file a civil action to determine if the failure or inaction complained of is a violation of this article and for injunctive or mandatory relief.
  • c.) A person shall not file an action under this section unless the person has notified the attorney general of the alleged violation and the attorney general or other appropriate representative of government has not provided appropriate relief within a reasonable time under the circumstances. an action filed under this section may be in addition to or in lieu of any action by officers of this state, including the attorney general.
  • d.) A person who files and is successful in an action under this section may be awarded all costs expended or incurred in the action, including reasonable attorney fees.




3,523,487 English
1,229,237 All languages other than English combined
927,395 Spanish or Spanish Creole
89,951 Navajo
30,109 Other Native North American languages
25,103 German
17,111 Chinese
15,663 French (incl. Patois, Cajun)
10,049 Tagalog
9,999 Vietnamese
8,992 Italian
7,689 Korean
7,622 Arabic
7,438 Serbo-Croatian
6,127 Japanese
5,456 Polish
4,073 Russian
3,467 Persian
3,452 African languages
3,075 Greek
2,878 Scandinavian languages
2,632 Portuguese or Portuguese Creole
2,568 Hindi
1,953 Gujarathi
1,747 Hungarian
1,686 Hebrew
1,587 Thai
1,556 Urdu
1,217 Mon-Khmer, Cambodian
1,067 Yiddish
921 Laotian
748 Armenian
205 French Creole
41 Miao, Hmong