Yesterday, Prerna wrote about the passage of a bill requiring all Georgia driver’s license exams to be given in English. Well, Tennessee is getting in on the action too, with double the trouble: one proposed bill would give employers the right to insist that their workers speak only English, the other would require English-only driver’s license exams.
As the Tennessean states: “The former is unnecessary, the latter potentially harmful.” First off, in yet another sign that our nation’s lawmakers just have too much time on their hands, a federal law already exists securing the right to mandate English-only communication when necessary, “which suggests this simply is a maneuver to ingratiate the bill’s backers to their voting base.” Yay for nativist, racist political manipulations! I’m unsurprised that a similar (rejected) measure last year was primarily funded by Pro-English, an anti-immigrant organization in the John Tanton Network.
Now, the driver’s license bill: time and again, the state Department of Safety has testify there’s no data to support the suggestion that people who don’t speak English are worse drivers or cause more accidents. On the other hand, the consequence of the bill could be more people driving without licenses or instruction, which is a road danger. But this is my favorite argument: Sen. Delores Gresham claims, “This bill embraces everyone. It says, ‘Come, be like us. Speak English.'” I think she forgot the “or else” on the end of that statement.
Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, says that immigrants don’t need this extra (punitive) encouragement: English classes are already overflowing, with long waiting lists. He also asks: “If a newly settled refugee cannot get a driver’s license, how is she going to drive to her English classes?”
Photo credit: eek the cat