English-Only Driver License Bill
English-Only Legislation / Driver License Bill: Unlawful, Costly and Harmful to Citizens.
House Bill 72 (HB 72) seeks to eliminate the ability of GA citizens and legal permanent residents to take the written portion of the permanent driver license test in a language other than English. HB 72 is nearly identical to Senate Bill 67 (SB 67) that was defeated during the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions. The sponsors claim these bills promote public safety on the roads because Limited English Proficient (LEP) people may not be able to read temporary road signs and will cause accidents on the road.
Currently, the written test is provided in approximately 14 different languages, with Korean, Japanese and Spanish being the top three languages. Approximately 5,000 Georgians take the written test in a non-English language per month. Even though the written test is provided in different languages, everyone that applies for a driver license in Georgia must still pass the road sign test in English, and must demonstrate an ability to read and understand simple English.
HB 72 violates existing law and could rob the state of much needed federal funds. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and a related Executive Order require any agencies that receive federal funding to provide language assistance for significant populations that are limited English proficient. Passage of HB 72 could lead to the loss of critical federal funding needed to operate the Department of Driver Services. HB 72 also violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Despite the sponsors’ stated purpose for this bill, HB 72 does not promote public safety. HB 72 provides an exception for illiterate persons that cannot read or write in any language, and also provides an exception for temporary license holders. These persons are also unable or potentially unable to read temporary overhead signs, yet they are allowed to drive on the roads. Moreover, there is no evidence that LEP citizens cause a disproportionately higher number of accidents or that they cause accidents because they cannot read overhead road signs. Simply claiming there is a ‘public safety’ problem doesn’t make it true.
Georgia may be the only state to not provide language assistance for permanent driver licenses. Nearly every State in the US provides some type of language assistance to LEP persons seeking a driver license. New immigrant citizens aren’t asking for any favors when asking our legislators to follow laws that were established based on a history of discrimination and lack of equal access to government services. For new immigrants to integrate and become vibrant members of our society, we must provide an equal way to get there. Equality and freedom from government oppression was what our country was founded on, and what this policy would not provide.
Georgia can’t afford a reputation for being unfriendly to immigrants. Georgia has one of the fastest growing Asian American populations in the country, and these citizens attract other immigrants and foreign Asian business development to our state. Georgia can’t afford to appear inhospitable and unwelcoming to diverse communities and foreign businesses.
HB 72 would hurt tens of thousands of Georgia citizens. Approximately 60,000 citizens and residents take the written exam in a language other than English each year in Georgia. If passed, HB 72 would impact tens of thousands of Georgia citizens from driving to work, driving their children to school, or driving to the hospital or to ESL courses. It would also rob many citizens from one of the most important and common state identification cards that people use to open bank accounts, utility services and other basic services.
Translated Fact Sheets on the English-Only Driver License Bill: