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Mo. Senate’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration discusses driver's license exams

Legislators and Gov. Nixon are sparing over bills reforming voter identification and workplace discrimination.
Legislators and Gov. Nixon are sparing over bills reforming voter identification and workplace discrimination.

The Missouri Senate’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration held its final meeting Thursday.

Among the issues discussed was legislation that would require driver’s license exams be given in English only.  Sister Peggy Bonnot runs El Puente Hispanic Ministry in Jefferson City.  She told the panel that requiring English-only driver’s license tests would create a hardship for legal immigrants trying to build a life here.

“People have difficulty getting to church, they have difficulty getting to English classes, ESL, and also citizenship classes…we need to look at the broad picture and look at those things that are going to enhance our community,” said Bonnot.

Another advocate told the Senate panel that inflammatory rhetoric by some lawmakers has impacted the way immigrants are treated in Missouri, and suggested that House and Senate leaders privately ask them to tone it down.  But panel chairman, GOP Senator John Lamping of St. Louis County, says that would border on violating free speech rights.

Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.