Indiana BMV sued over English-only Driver’s Manual

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a non-profit organization against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) over the Indiana Driver’s Manual, which is only available in English.

The lawsuit points out that in order to get a driver’s license, a person must pass a written test and a driving test to prove knowledge of the laws and driving skills.

The written test is offered in fourteen languages, according to the lawsuit: Arabic, Burmese, Chin, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

However, the manual from which the questions come is only offered in English.

The non-profit organization at the center of the lawsuit is Neighbor to Neighbor, which helps international refugees and other immigrants in the South Bend area.  The lawsuit alleges this organization is left to try and teach the material covered in the manual to those who cannot read English.

Even then, many struggle with the knowledge test.

“The reason for this is self-evident,” the lawsuit reads. “Learning material orally is no substitute for the ability to read, study, review and re-review the Driver’s Manual in a language that a refugee or other recent immigrant to Indiana actually understands.”

The ACLU says the BMV offering the book only in English violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment.

“The failure to offer the Driver’s Manual in any language other than English while simultaneously permitting persons to take the knowledge examination based on the information in the Driver’s Manual in any of fourteen different languages is also irrational and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit says.

A BMV spokesperson, when asked for comment on the lawsuit, said, “We have not been notified of a lawsuit, nor have we been served regarding one.”

Our partners at the IndyStar say a spokesperson told them the bureau is working on a Spanish version of the manual, set to be released in early 2019.

The lawsuit states a driver’s license is vital to refugees and immigrants’ ability to establish a new life here.

“Obtaining a driver’s license is of particular importance to the international refugees and other recent immigrants assisted by Neighbor to Neighbor because the ability to drive is invaluable in their efforts to secure sustainable employment, to obtain and maintain housing and community relationships, and to accomplish numerous other tasks of contemporary life such as visiting the library or going grocery shopping,” the lawsuit says. “There is no legitimate reason, rational or otherwise, for the BMV to offer its ‘knowledge examination’ in fourteen different languages but to only offer the Driver’s Manual on which that examination is based in English.”

The lawsuit can be read in its entirety below.

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