With just three weeks of the legislative session under their belts, members of the General Assembly have wasted no time in offering up unnecessary and dangerous policy proposals aimed at undermining the basic civil rights of the immigrant and refugee community. HB 167 and HB 168, both sponsored by Rep. Nolte of Gladstone, use driver’s licenses and state IDs to target legal, documented immigrants for discrimination. Because undocumented immigrants are ineligible for these forms of identification, the legislation would only impact documented immigrants who are already in compliance with state and federal laws.
HB 167 would require driver’s exams to be conducted only in English. Missouri has offered these exams in at least 12 languages for years because law enforcement understands that it is more important to assure a driver understands traffic laws than to conduct arbitrary language proficiency tests. By eliminating non-English speakers’ ability to qualify for a Missouri license, the legislature would be removing thousands of people’s ability to get to work, take their children to school, or travel. HB 167 would only serve to encourage people in desperate situations to drive without a license, creating a significant public safety concern.
Even more offensive is HB 168, which would require that state-issued ID carried by non-citizens have an emblem indicating their status as immigrants. While forcing non-citizens to carry a proverbial “Scarlet Letter” would do nothing to promote public safety, it would increase incidents of profiling and discrimination against immigrants and refugees. By being labeled as an “alien” every time one is forced to present an ID – to an officer, to a potential employer, at the grocery store – non-citizens would be subjected to even greater prejudice, discrimination, and profiling than they might otherwise face.
“This legislation is a blatant effort to discriminate against immigrants because of the language they speak, and then demoralize them by forcing them to identify themselves with what amounts to a scarlet letter,” said Vanessa Crawford, Executive Director of MIRA. “When there is a climate in Jefferson City where a legislator can declare that he supports these proposals merely because he ‘hates Spanish,’ there is little doubt as to the motives behind this legislation. Instead of attacking thousands of people in Missouri’s communities, the General Assembly should be looking for ways to make our laws reflect the diversity of our state.”