ACLU of Georgia Urges Lawmakers To Reject English-Only Driver's License Bill

March 1, 2011

HB 72 Would Violate Federal Law and Subject Georgia to Federal Sanctions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Atlanta – The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia today called on state representatives to reject House Bill 72 proposed by Representative James Mills that will reportedly be up for a vote before the Georgia House of Representatives later today. The bill would directly impact U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who may not feel comfortable with a driver’s license exam administered in English. The ACLU of Georgia stands in strong opposition to this bill, because it violates federal law, raises serious constitutional concerns, and does nothing to improve public safety.

HB 72 would require administration of driver’s license exams only in English, while carving out an exception for certain non-citizens eligible for a temporary driver’s license who may take the exam in another language for a period not exceeding 10 years.

“Through discriminating against those with limited English proficiency, this bill could be found in violation of regulations issued pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “By violating federal law, HB 72 would expose Georgia to federal sanctions, specifically withdrawal of federal funds.”

In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, federal funds constituted the greatest share of funding sources for GA DOT, amounting to more than $1,200,000,000 per year. Sanctions would also impact grants for highway and other transportation construction.

Georgia is currently in compliance with federal law by offering the driver’s license test in 12 languages besides English.

In addition, the bill would do nothing to improve public safety. The Georgia Department of Driver’s Services already offers the Road Sign Test only in English. All drivers must therefore have the ability to read and understand simple English used in highway traffic and directional signs.
 

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