Monday, March 17, 2008

Mexican truck drivers allowed to pass English proficiency requirement in Spanish

Mexican truck drivers allowed to travel through the U.S. in a Bush administration demonstration project are not proficient in English. At a Senate Commerce Committee meeting, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III admitted that Mexican drivers were being designated at the border as "proficient in English" even if they could explain U.S. traffic signs only in Spanish.

Sen. Byron Dorgan asked if it were true that Mexican truckers could explain U.S. traffic signs only in Spanish when given English proficiency tests at the border. Dorgan asked Scovel "Do you show a driver an octagonal 'STOP' sign at the border and qualify him if he explains the sign means 'ALTO'?" (Alto is the Spanish word for "Stop.")

"Yes," Scovel answered reluctantly. "If the stop sign is identified as 'alto,' the driver is considered English proficient."

"If you answer in Spanish, you're not English proficient," Dorgan insisted.

Dorgan summed up "We know now there are no equivalencies between Mexican trucks and U.S. trucks. There are no equivalent safety standards. Mexico has no reliable database for vehicle inspections, accident reports or driver's records. "Now you tell us Mexican drivers can pass their English proficiency tests in Spanish," the senator continued, outraged. "The Department of Transportation is telling Congress, 'We're doing this and we don't care.'

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