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April 30, 2010

A wonderful message

Today I read with mixed emotions the news of Senate support for immigration reform, President Obama's luke warm statements defending immigrants and Arizona law allowing profiling of undocumented.

Then I read a wonderful email (below) from Tennessee State Senator Douglass Henry against the English Only bill in Tennessee.

In 1995 we organized a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. The only politician I recall who attended was Senator Henry. He and I spoke about the growth of the immigrant community which he had seen as a native of Nashville. Senator Henry recalled how the first Asian and Mexican restaurants had come to Nashville. I speak Spanish, French and English and was impressed to find out that Senator Henry spoke and enjoyed the art of languages. He spoke with confidence and without fear of immigrants.

At this time we had organized Hispanic advocacy group UNAMONOS (United) and were working on obtaining the drivers license test in Spanish for persons without a social security number. A collateral project was to translate the TN Drivers license manual into Spanish. To translate the manual we took the English version and following volunteers translated a page or two from English to Spanish;

Jacki Akbari Western Union, Norma Antillon, David Bermudez, Dr. Arturo Buenahora, Luis Bustillo, Cesar Castillo Metro Officer, Francisco Caicedo TN Probation Officer, Dave & Luce Fore, Melissa Fore, Peter Frelinghausen & Tannia Ortiz, Antonio & Rosa Garcia, Esperanza Garcia, Jill Hamilton, Gustavo & Blanca Hernandez, Heriberto & Genevera Hernandez, Luis & Martha Mascorro La Voz Newspaper, Corinne Martinez, Efrain Martinez Pastor Iglesia Hispana, Teresa Medina TennCare, Pastor Chuck & Lilia Padilla Judson Baptist Church, Gia Payne, Dr. Andres & Renee Ramos, Mario & Iris Ramos, Ana Rivera, Andy Robinson, Marlon Rodriguez, Martha Salazar Comunidad Hispana, Maggie Sapien President Hispanic Resource Center (which became Conexion Americas, 2002), Pete & Helena Tellez St Edwards Catholic Church, Begona Toral, Paul & Leonor Van Cotthem Buenos Dias Newspaper, Andy Yambure.

To proof read the translations W. Todd Turner “Tadeo” and Dr. David C. Julseth, Belmont University served as the editors. Then we distributed through out Tennessee the 10,000 copies sponsored by Western Union. Later on we got the Tennessee Department of Safety to make the test available in Spanish for persons without a social security number. On a trade mission to Asia Governor Sunquist expanded the test into Japanese and Korean. The Defense of Marriage Act signed by President Clinton made the test unavailable to those without a social security number. Senator Henry successfully guided into law a bill which made it legal at that time to obtain a drivers license without a social. Senator Henry gained the vote of Marsha Blackburn at that time. At this time Tennessee was the only state allowing in the US a driver’s license to be obtained without a social security number.

Since then the driver’s license struggle has gone back and forth and past supporters have become nemeses. Through out all this time Senator Henry has remained a bright light in support of the simple idea of allowing people to learn the rules of driving in Tennessee and to obtain proof of identity.

Here is the email I received from Senator Henry this morning; “English only sends wrong message about Tennessee


Would the executives at Volkswagen or Wacker Chimie or Nissan have located large plants in Tennessee if we had sent the message that folks who speak another language aren’t welcome here? At a time when so many Tennesseans need jobs, we as a state should be trying to attract good companies. This is not the time to hang a sign on our front door that says “not welcome.”

A bill that would give preference to English only in the Tennessee driver’s test does just that. My colleague, Senator Jim Kyle put it well this week as we considered the legislation in the Senate Finance Committee: “What it does is put us in a column of states that have passed English-only drivers’ licenses. That’s the list I would start with if I was overseas and deciding where I don’t want to go.” I opposed this sort of thing when there was a move afoot to force Metro to handle much of its business in English only, and I oppose it now. Tennessee is a patchwork of rich cultures. Throughout my career serving you, I have been an advocate of recognizing all the distinct parts of our state.

If you would like to help me continue to bring this perspective to the legislature, I hope you will join my re-election campaign. Reply to this e-mail or visit our Web site if you would like to volunteer. Or, get in touch with us by phone at 615-460-1114 or 615-305-5062. We’ll look forward to hearing from you! Douglas Henry””.

On May the 4th I and my wife Iris will vote to re-elect Senator Henry to finish the job he began long ago.

Posted by VisaLawyer at April 30, 2010 07:55 AM


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