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May 02, 2005

TIRRC Legislative Update

I just received this update from Stephen Fotopulos

"Dear Friends:
GOOD NEWS: Driving Certificate Repeal and Public Benefits Repeal DEFEATED

The driving certificate repeal attempt (SB1050/HB2132) has been defeated in the both the House and the Senate. The bill to deny all public benefits to undocumented immigrants, including public health services and driving certificates (SB1906/HB2218), has also been defeated in the House. Thank you so much to everyone who contacted legislators last week about these anti-immigrant bills, and to the individuals who visited the legislature on Tuesday and Wednesday.

BAD NEWS: Driver’s License Translation Repeal PASSED Senate Transportation Committee

In a very strange development, the driver’s license translation repeal bill (SB0303/HB0242) was amended in the Senate Transportation Committee. The amended bill (which passed the Senate Transportation Committee but must still pass the House and full Senate before becoming law) basically says if you want to apply for a driver’s license, the test would only be offered in English. If you wanted to take the test in one of the other available languages (Spanish, Korean, etc.), you would only have access to a driving certificate. That is to say, the amendment changes the nature of the driving certificate from one that discriminates based on immigration status to one that also discriminates based on language ability.

Committee members were convinced by those who testified (Janis Rodriguez, the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute; Zary Rahimi, Iranian Women’s Group) that fluency in English is not a requirement to drive safely, and eliminating translations would prevent many people from getting to work. However, members justified the amendment as a way for non-English speaking immigrants and refugees to continue to work and participate in the community, overlooking the fact that certificates are not intended for broader identification purposes such as getting a job, opening a bank account, registering for English classes at a community college, etc. Supporters of the amendment also suggested that the second-class nature of the driving certificate would give immigrants and refugees the “necessary incentive” to learn English more quickly. As the amendment was discussed, the law would apply to anyone who chooses to take the test in a language other than English, including, for instance, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico who is more comfortable reading Spanish.

Please see the committee list below to learn how each member voted, and to let them know your thoughts on the bill. The amended Senate version has been referred to the Senate Finance committee, and we will keep you updated on any progress.

Thanks again everyone’s great efforts,

Stephen Fotopulos
Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
stephen@tnimmigrant.org
(615) 846-6672 (voice)
(615) 227-7551 (fax)

Anti-immigrant bills (for a complete list, go to http://www.tnimmigrant.org/TN_Coalition/Legislation/Bill_list.htm)

· SB 0303 Ketron/HB 0242 DuBois- DRIVER’S LICENSE TRANSLATION REPEAL (read full text). Requires that the written driver’s license exam to be given only in English. This would erase our recent victories in obtaining languages such as Arabic and Vietnamese, and keep us from obtaining more languages such as Farsi, Somali and Kurdish. It would also erase languages currently available such as Spanish and Korean. If passed, this law would prevent tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees who know the rules of the road from having reasonable access to a driver’s license or certificate. CLICK HERE FOR HELPFUL TALKING POINTS. This bill was amended in the Senate Transportation committee to continue the current translations, but only for certificates for driving; the House version is in the Public Safety and Rural Road subcommittee of the Transportation committee, which has already adjourned for the year.

· SB 1627 Norris/ HB 0698 Pleasant- NO HANDGUNS FOR IMMIGRANTS (read full text)
Adds requirement that applicants for handgun permits be a United States citizen. While TIRRC members have not identified access to handguns as a priority issue, this bill would establish an unseemly precedent—that noncitizens are inherently less trustworthy than citizens when it comes to firearms. This news will come as a surprise to the approximately 40,000 noncitizens in the U.S. military, or to the families of the 142 noncitizen U.S. troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, noncitizens should carry guns to protect this country, just not in this country (or at least in the state of Tennessee). Passed the full House, 96-0; the Senate version is in the Judiciary Committee on 5/3/05.

Find your TN State Senator

Find your TN State Representative

The Senate Transportation Committee amended and forwarded SB 0303 (DRIVER’S LICENSE TRANSLATION) to the full Senate with a recommendation for approval. The vote was 5 to 2, with 2 members not present.

WEST TN: Senator (Chairman) Mark Norris (R): Phone (615) 7-41-1967, sen.mark.norris@legislature.state.tn.us (voted YES)

MIDDLE TN: Senator (Vice Chair) Jim Tracy (D): Phone 615-741-1066, sen.jim.tracy@legislature.state.tn.us (voted YES)

Senator Mae Beavers (R): Phone (615) 741-2421, sen.mae.beavers@legislature.state.tn.us (voted YES)

Senator Jerry Cooper (D): Phone (615) 741-6694, sen.jerry.cooper@legislature.state.tn.us (voted YES)

Senator Rosalind Kurita (D): Phone (615) 741-2374, sen.rosalind.kurita@legislature.state.tn.us (not present)

EAST TN: Senator Ward Crutchfield (D): Phone (615) 741-6682, sen.ward.crutchfield@legislature.state.tn.us (voted NO)

Senator Jamie Hagood (R): Phone (615) 741-1648, sen.jamie.hagood@legislature.state.tn.us (voted YES)

Secretary Tommy Kilby (D): Phone (615) 741-1449, sen.tommy.kilby@legislature.state.tn.us (voted NO)

Senator Steve Southerland (R): Phone (615) 741-3851, sen.steve.southerland@legislature.state.tn.us (not present)

If you wish to be added to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition e-mail list, please send your name, e-mail adress, and a brief (two sentences max.) explanation of why you are interested in joining to David Lubell at david@tnimmigrant.org.

Posted by VisaLawyer at May 2, 2005 06:43 AM

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