Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration has undertaken responsibility for studying current state immigration laws and make recommendations on ways to make Missouri more welcoming to immigrants. The Panel held their final meeting last Thursday in Jefferson City to discuss legislation that requires driver’s license exams to be given in English only.
There has been much debate over whether making the exams in English only is the best option for the state. On one hand it is important for everyone to be able to understand and read road signs that are all written in English. “This bill says we want you to come to our state and understand our laws and understand our signs," said Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. To those who oppose the legislation, the bill is attacking immigrants and sending bad messages about Missouri’s view on immigration to other states. Some also say that insurance rates might increase because of the immigrants who cannot read English and would still drive without a license.
Requiring driver’s license tests to be in English will only provide a hardship for immigrants who are trying to build their life in the U.S. Without a driver’s license, they cannot take citizenship classes, travel, or even get to church. Sister Peggy Bonnot, who runs El Puente Hispanic Ministry in Jefferson City, urges legislators “to look at the broad picture and look at those things that are going to enhance our community.” Others have suggested that the legislation and “inflammatory rhetoric” used by some lawmakers has a negative impact on how immigrants are treated in Missouri.
There have been no concrete changes to the current Missouri laws as of now, but the Panel has acknowledged the hardship this may cause for immigrants. Further talks will ensue as advocates for immigrants pressure the lawmakers to consider the impact on the entire community.