Dems blast push for English-only Ge­or­gia com­mu­ni­ca­tion rule

Ripon Bulletin - - Local / State -

AT­LANTA (AP) — When state Rep. Pe­dro “Pete” Marin moved from Puerto Rico to Ge­or­gia with his fam­ily in 1995, he and his wife Nereida each had to ap­ply for a new driver’s li­cense.

Al­though they had been li­censed driv­ers in Puerto Rico for years, the Marins had to take the same writ­ten exam that Ge­or­gia teenagers do. But to pass the road-rules half of the writ­ten test, Nereida Marin needed help, her hus­band re­called, be­cause her English at the time wasn’t strong enough.

For­tu­nately for her, Ge­or­gia of­fered the writ­ten exam in var­i­ous for­eign lan­guages. It’s one of more than 40 states that do. She took the test in Span­ish and passed. She was soon driv­ing on her own and, her hus­band says, was able to be a “pro­duc­tive Ge­or­gian.”

How­ever, that op­tion could dis­ap­pear. A state law­maker is spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion to make Ge­or­gia of­fer such ser­vices only in English.

From Jan­uary to Oc­to­ber 2015 — the most re­cent pe­riod for which Ge­or­gia’s Depart­ment of Driver Ser­vices has com­piled sta­tis­tics — about 8 per­cent of writ­ten driver’s li­cense tests were taken in one of 11 for­eign lan­guages of­fered. Of those ap­prox­i­mately 290,000 writ­ten ex­ams, about 15,000 — 5 per­cent — were con­ducted in Span­ish. An­other 1,000 were taken in Viet­namese, Chi­nese and Ara­bic.

For years, though, some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have ar­gued that the state govern­ment should not be so ac­com­mo­dat­ing to non-English speak­ers. They ar­gue that ser­vices such as trans­lat­ing vot­ing bal­lots and of­fer­ing in­ter­preters to help im­mi­grants use wel­fare pro­grams end up cost­ing tax­pay­ers money and don’t en­cour­age non-English speak­ers to de­velop the flu­ency.

“My bill def­i­nitely has a tax­payer ben­e­fit, but there’s also a ben­e­fit for non-English speak­ers, since a key to eco­nomic suc­cess is adopt­ing the lan­guage quickly,” said GOP Sen. Joshua McKoon of Colum­bus, who is spon­sor­ing a state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to des­ig­nate English as Ge­or­gia’s of­fi­cial lan­guage.

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