Remember, conservative xenophobes: the South Dakotans calling for making it easier for immigrants to make themselves at home in our fair state aren’t radical Marxist social justice warriors cahootsifying with the radical Shariists to destroy your America. They are, as the Higgins memo suggested, your local business leaders who can’t find enough Angloparlantes to drive their trucks:
Construction industry leaders in the Sioux Falls area want to change the state’s driving laws to make it easier for Spanish speakers to get behind the wheel. Language restrictions have created a drag on the workforce in a fast-growing industry that also drives the growth of the state’s largest city.
Most states offer driving tests in different languages. South Dakota does not.
State law requires all government documents to be published in English, and officials extend the rule to both the written and skills sections of the driving exam [Patrick Anderson, “English Only? S.D. License Law a Hurdle for Sioux Falls Construction Industry,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.08.29].
The Legislature passed and Governor Bill Janklow signed a law (SDCL 1-27-20) in 1995 declaring English the “common” state language and designating that common language as “the language of any official public document or record and any official public meeting.” The “the” in that clause means that when aspiring drivers sit for the test to get their license, the official test that the state plunks in front of them must be written only in English.
Roadbuilder BX Civil and Construction of Dell Rapids tells Anderson that about 60 of its 100 workers are Hispanic. The construction execs talking about easing the language restrictions on driver’s license tests seem to be focusing on allowing Spanish versions of those tests. But if there is a civil rights issue with offering our driving tests in only one language, there’s a civil rights issue with offering those tests in only two languages. Employers can’t up and say they only want more Hispanic workers; whatever legal changes they propose need to offer equal opportunity to all workers, regardless of national origin or native tongue.
Business gets what business wants in South Dakota So fine, add to the current list of exceptions to South Dakota’s English-only rule. But be ready to publish más de uno alternative driving exam.