Again the Missouri House is trying to push the English only driver’s license exam, user the guise that it will protect Missouri from “illegals” obtaining Driver’s License. The fact is is that “illegals” cannot get Driver’s Licenses (since 2005) without actually committing the crimes of identify theft and document fraud because you have to have proof of your legal status in the United States. This bill will not hurt undocumented people who already cannot get licenses but would hurt 100% legal immigrants and refugees. It would also put all Missouri Driver’s at risk because it will mean that there will be more unlicensed driver’s on the street. While driver’s licenses are a privilege not a right, the fact is that in this day and age and and especially in Missouri where there is barely public transportation in Major Cities and none in smaller towns and in more rural areas, people need to drive and will drive even if it means driving without a license because their English is not good enough to pass a written multiple choice exam. Passing that exam in English does not make you a better or safer driver than passing it in any other language. Our Street signs are made so that they require a minimal amount of actual reading. Furthermore, the state provides a way for someone who is illiterate to take the exam by having someone read the questions to them. So how is someone who cannot read at all but can pass the exam through having it given orally more safe to drive than someone who studies and learns the rules of the road in their own language and passes that exam in their own language? This is a red herring. It will not keep undocumented folks from getting DL’s and will punish legal immigrants making more unlicensed drivers and probably more uninsured driver’s a a result.
There is a hearing about this bill on January 25, tomorrow, at 5:00 pm in Jefferson City on the 2 proposed bills (really the same bill, I don’t know why there are 2 different bills)HB 1147 and HB1186. The hearing is at 5:00 pm, in House Hearing Room 7 in the International Trade and Job Creation Committee. Chaired by none other than the king of bad immigration laws in Missouri, Jerry Nolte.
I am listing the home pages of all committee members so you can email or call their office if you cannot attend in person. Please take 5 minutes and do this because it is for sure the anti-immigration people are calling and e-mailing to express support. You only need to say you do not support the bills and hope the reps will not either. Easy Peasy.
“My name is ___________. I am calling to urge Representative ______ to vote against HB 1147 and 1186 that would allow Missouri Driver’s License Exams only to be given in English. This would not impact illegal immigrants in Missouri and only harm those who are legal. It will create more unlicensed and uninsured drivers and harm businesses especial in smaller towns and rural areas where there is no public transportation. ” That’s it. Of course you can add if you want but it can be as simple as that.
John McCaherty, Republican District 090, Vice Chair
Sponsors not on Committee:
Here is my article about the bad bills last year including an identical one to these proposing English Only DL tests. The bill was defeated and they are trying again. Originally published in Missouri Lawyers Weekly on February 21, 2011.
Keep reading for the test of the bills or click on the links above.
Do Missouri Law Makers Hate LEGAL Immigrants?
by Angela L. Williams
I continue to be outraged today. There are several bills that are pending in the Missouri house and senate that are taking aim at legal immigrants and proposing to turn Missouri into a state that does not welcome legal immigrants: House Bills 167, 168 & 206. House bill 167 would require that driver’s license tests be only given in English with no interpreter allowed. House Bill 168 (also see Senate bill 195) would require that all non-citizen drivers shall have a special emblem on their driver’s license designating them as non citizens, and House Bill 206 proposes that business entities or employers that hire illegal immigrants subject to a $50,000 fine.
This is why you should be outraged too. As this debate about what to do about immigration rages on and becomes more and more heated and violent, one thing that I have heard from opponent of immigration reform say, up until now at least, is that they have no problem with LEGAL immigrants. These bills fly in the face of even that notion. These bills clearly states to the entire world, “If you weren’t born here, we don’t want you in Missouri.” None of these bills addresses a real concern of security, undocumented immigrants or even road safety. I am appalled and embarrassed to be a Missourian with these kind of obviously hate driven legislation pending.
HB 167, the English only Driver’s exam test, purports to protect the safety of Missouri roads so the applicant of a Missouri Driver’s License “can demonstrate his or her ability to sufficiently understand highway traffic signs and safety warnings.” However this is so much thinly veiled nonsense. I fail to see how studying for taking and passing the test in English shows a greater understanding of the rules of the road than studying for, taking and passing the test in any other language. And a quick perusal through the study guide shows that specially shaped and colored signs using pictures and rarely a word or two designate signs and safety warnings. No one needs to be able to read full sentences in order to know how to recognize a Stop sign or a Yield Sign or a Dangerous Curve Ahead sign. Driving Signs are standardized exactly for this reason, so anyone, even someone who cannot read can understand warnings.
This is actually going to create more unlicensed drivers not more driver’s that speak English. Similarly, the Federal Government does not require that people speak English to become a Lawful Permanent Resident or to hold any of the other types of visas that are available. In order to become a US Citizen people need only pass a basic exam in English that does not rise near to the level necessary to study for and pass the Driver’s License exam. See 8 USC § 1423(a)(1) And even then if you are over a certain age and have held your green card for more than 15-20 years or have a physical or mental disability you do not have to pass the English test. See 8 USC §1423(b)(1) & (2) To me this is a thinly veiled attempt to make life for immigrants more difficult. This law is meant to exclude immigrants from driving, thus making it more difficult to obtain and maintain employment and support their families and to continue to live in Missouri. And know here I am talking about 100% legal immigrants. Since July 1, 2005 undocumented folks are already excluded from obtaining a driver’s license no matter what language they speak so this is directly aimed at those immigrants who “waited in line,” “went through the process” and “did it legally,” all phrases that the anti-reform lobby likes to throw around.
Similarly HB 168 would “Require any driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, non-driver’s license, or instruction permit issued to a noncitizen who is lawfully present in the U. S. to include a noncitizen status emblem” What does that sound like to you? In September of 1941 German Law began requiring that any Jewish person over the age of 6 must wear a badge identifying themselves as such when outside the house. The point was to mark that group of people as different and thus worthy of scorn. Is this what we have come to? I am so sad and disgusted by the mere introduction of this law that I am almost speechless. Rep Steve King’s recent introduction of a federal bill that would strip the citizenship of millions of children born of undocumented parents is frighteningly close to the Nuremburg laws stripping German born Jews of German Citizenship simply for being born into a Jewish household. This frightening nativist and extremist move to intolerance and violent rhetoric is going to lead to nothing but a human right disaster. Whereas HB 167 attempts to offer a reason of safety to justify its existence, HB 168 offers no such evidence. I can think of no reason anyone would need to know whether someone is a citizen or not. Having this special symbol automatically sets the immigrant apart. I can think of only discriminatory consequences that could come of marking noncitizens. Anytime they have to present their driver’s license there non-citizen status will be displayed and put them at the mercy whoever is looking at their license. I see no reason for either of these laws except to exclude and marginalize legal immigrants and put them in an “other” status in society. It is saying to legal immigrants that you are not welcome in Missouri and you are less than.
Finally HB 206 would impose a fine on employers for hiring someone not authorized to work in the United States is also problematic and I fear will cause employers to be leery of hiring legal immigrants for fear of this penalty. There is no definition, no indication on who will determine the legal status of the workers, what agency or entity will administer this program. The term “unauthorized alien” is not even a term that is used in the immigration laws. The fact that the author cannot even get the terminology correct shows that states have no business trying to write laws dealing with immigration. Immigration is a complex highly specialized area of law that most practitioners do exclusively. It is not an area you can dabble in and be successful. Similarly, when State legislators, who have no knowledge, experience or understanding of the complexity of Federal immigration law try their hand at writing laws pertaining to this complicated field we get dangerously ambiguous statutes that threaten the jobs of people legally authorized to work. Currently Immigration and Customs Enforcement handles workplace audits and accountability and the lengthy process that ICE goes through in determining a worker’s legal status is onerous and complex. Missouri state officials do not have the training or expertise or the authority to make a determination on someone legal status. I fear that even people authorized to work will be victimized in Missouri if this law passes because employers will fear this penalty and decide simply not to hire foreign workers.
I am so saddened by these bills and the undercurrent of hatred, intolerance and exclusion that seems to be sweeping our society. I fear if we do not take a stand against this type of blatant bigotry, violent rhetoric and unapologetic exclusionism one day we will wake to find an America we do not recognize. Sadly this problem is not going away and it appears to me that no politician, state of federal is really interested in seeing this system fixed. And why would they be, conservative politicians would lose politically charged buzz phrases guaranteed to ignite peoples anger and stop people’s independent thought and liberal politicians would actually have to take a stand on something and risk an election. In my lifetime, I have not seen another issue enrage people and cause them to lose the ability to think so completely than the issue of immigration. The solution is common sense reform that fixes what is broken rather than laws that serve no purpose except to discriminate and alienate already legal immigrants.
Section A. Section 302.173, RSMo, is repealed and one new section enacted in lieu thereof, to be known as section 302.173, to read as follows:
302.173. 1. Any applicant for a license, who does not possess a valid license issued pursuant to the laws of this state, another state, or a country which has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Missouri regarding the exchange of licenses pursuant to section 302.172 shall be examined as herein provided. Any person who has failed to renew such person’s license on or before the date of its expiration or within six months thereafter must take the complete examination. Any active member of the armed forces, their adult dependents or any active member of the peace corps may apply for a renewal license without examination of any kind, unless otherwise required by sections 302.700 to 302.780, provided the renewal application shows that the previous license had not been suspended or revoked. Any person honorably discharged from the armed forces of the United States who held a valid license prior to being inducted may apply for a renewal license within sixty days after such person’s honorable discharge without submitting to any examination of such person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this state unless otherwise required by sections 302.700 to 302.780, other than the vision test provided in section 302.175, unless the facts set out in the renewal application or record of convictions on the expiring license, or the records of the director show that there is good cause to authorize the director to require the applicant to submit to the complete examination. No applicant for a renewal license shall be required to submit to any examination of his or her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this state unless otherwise required by sections 302.700 to 302.780 or regulations promulgated thereunder, other than a test of the applicant’s ability to understand highway signs regulating, warning or directing traffic and the vision test provided in section 302.175, unless the facts set out in the renewal application or record of convictions on the expiring license, or the records of the director show that there is good cause to authorize the director to require the applicant to submit to the complete examination. The examination shall be made available in each county. Reasonable notice of the time and place of the examination shall be given the applicant by the person or officer designated to conduct it. The complete examination shall include a test of the applicant’s natural or corrected vision as prescribed in section 302.175, the applicant’s ability to understand highway signs regulating, warning or directing traffic, the applicant’s practical knowledge of the traffic laws of this state, and an actual demonstration of ability to exercise due care in the operation of a motor vehicle of the classification for which the license is sought. Examinations conducted under the authority of this section shall only be administered in the English language so that the applicant can demonstrate his or her ability to read the English language sufficiently to understand highway traffic signs and safety warnings. The director shall neither supply nor permit the use of foreign language interpreters in connection with the written or driving tests required under this section. When an applicant for a license has a license from a state which has requirements for issuance of a license comparable to the Missouri requirements or a license from a country which has a reciprocal agreement with the state of Missouri regarding the exchange of licenses pursuant to section 302.172 and such license has not expired more than six months prior to the date of application for the Missouri license, the director may waive the test of the applicant’s practical knowledge of the traffic laws of this state, and the requirement of actual demonstration of ability to exercise due care in the operation of a motor vehicle. If the director has reasonable grounds to believe that an applicant is suffering from some known physical or mental ailment which ordinarily would interfere with the applicant’s fitness to operate a motor vehicle safely upon the highways, the director may require that the examination include a physical or mental examination by a licensed physician of the applicant’s choice, at the applicant’s expense, to determine the fact. The director shall prescribe regulations to ensure uniformity in the examinations and in the grading thereof and shall prescribe and furnish all forms to the members of the highway patrol and to other persons authorized to conduct examinations as may be necessary to enable the officer or person to properly conduct the examination. The records of the examination shall be forwarded to the director who shall not issue any license hereunder if in the director’s opinion the applicant is not qualified to operate a motor vehicle safely upon the highways of this state.
2. Beginning July 1, 2005, when the examiner has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has committed fraud or deception during the examination process, the license examiner shall immediately forward to the director all information relevant to any fraud or deception, including, but not limited to, a statement of the examiner’s grounds for belief that the person committed or attempted to commit fraud or deception in the written, skills, or vision examination.
3. The director of revenue shall delegate the power to conduct the examinations required for a license or permit to any member of the highway patrol or any person employed by the highway patrol. The powers delegated to any examiner may be revoked at any time by the director of revenue upon notice.
4. Notwithstanding the requirements of subsections 1 and 3 of this section, the successful completion of a motorcycle rider training course approved pursuant to sections 302.133 to 302.137 shall constitute an actual demonstration of the person’s ability to exercise due care in the operation of a motorcycle or motortricycle, and no further driving test shall be required to obtain a motorcycle or motortricycle license or endorsement.