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Corruption Chronicles

English License Test Discriminates Against Illegal Immigrants

A Georgia bill that would require driver’s license exams to be given only in English is xenophobic and discriminates against illegal immigrants, according to the state’s Latino lawmakers who are working to defeat the measure.

The state senate overwhelmingly passed the Republican-sponsored legislation last month and it must be approved by the House before it goes to the governor. The senator who introduced it (Jack Murphy) is chairman of the state’s public safety commission and says drivers need to have at least a basic knowledge of English in order to read roadside warnings or communicate with authorities during emergencies.

Like several other states with large immigrant populations, Georgia offers the written portion of driver’s license tests in more than a dozen languages. California leads the nation by offering it in 32 languages and six states—including New York and Massachusetts—offer tests in at least 17 languages.

Eliminating the options, especially Spanish, is racist and goes after immigrants for not being proficient in English, according to a powerful Atlanta-based group of state legislators (Georgia Alliance of Latino Elected Officials). It’s also bad public policy, hostile toward all immigrants and downright xenophobic, says the group’s president Jerry Gonzalez, who once directed policy at the radical open-borders Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

Supporters of the measure maintain that it’s a public safety issue and not a discrimination bill as immigration advocates allege. A similar law is circulating through the legislature in neighboring Tennessee and already the chambers of commerce in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga have publicly opposed it because it would send a message that the state is unwelcoming to foreigners.

In recent years Georgia has enacted some of the nation’s toughest measures to curb illegal immigration, though some are seldom enforced. The state requires verification that adults who seek public benefits are in the U.S. legally and citizenship verification of employees and employers with state contracts. Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants are supposed to be heavily sanctioned but none have because the legislature didn’t grant funding to prosecute them.


 


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