Two other bills undermining immigrants’ rights still alive

Richmond, VA— The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee yesterday killed a controversial bill that would have allowed small businesses to fire employees who do not speak English, even in situations where the language spoken has no bearing on the ability to perform the job. The bill, HB 1472, easily passed the House of Delegates, but drew heavy fire from the ACLU of Virginia and immigrants’ rights advocates, who said the bill served no useful function and would be tantamount to allowing discrimination on the basis of national origin, which is illegal.
“No one disputes the right of employers to require English to be spoken when it is necessary to perform the job,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “But this bill essentially gave small businesses the right to require English on the job for no reason whatsoever. There’s little doubt that legislators were looking for a way around the ban on discrimination based on national origin.”
HB 1472 narrowly failed being sent to the Senate floor when the committee deadlocked on a 7-7 vote, with one abstention. It passed the House of Delegates on a 70-29 vote.
In addition to allowing employers to circumvent the ban on national origin discrimination, opponents of the bill pointed out that it could be confusing to employers, as it will create contradictions between state and federal employment law.
ACLU of Virginia Legislative Counsel Hope Amezquita told Senate committee members yesterday, “We believe it will confuse employers and is inconsistent with federal employment law.”
Two other bills undermining immigrants’ rights are still alive. HB 14, which denies any person not legally present in Virginia the right to attend a public university, has passed the House of Delegates and is now in the Senate Education and Health Committee. HB 440 and SB 623, which allow judges to presume that bail should be denied to arrestees who are here illegally, have both passed their chamber of origin. HB 440 has reported from the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on an 11-3 vote, and SB 623 is in the House Courts of Justice committee.
For a full listing of bills in the Virginia General Assembly being monitored by the ACLU, go to www.acluva.org/legislature/2008/2008GABills.html
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, (office) 804/644-8080

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