Fired New Mexico DMV Employee Sues Over “No Spanish” Rule

The Mexican American Legal Dense and Education Fund has gone to the defense of a Latina who was fired for calling-out discriminatory practices at the New Mexico driver’s license bureau.  The woman, Laura Montano, of Albuquerque, says  she wasn’t allowed to speak Spanish to non-English speakers who sought to renew their licenses. According to an Associated Press report:

The 39-year-old lost her job “after she voiced objections to a number of unfair, improper and discriminatory acts, policies, and practices,” the (MALDEF) lawsuit said.

There are two important things to keep in mind in this case:

  • New Mexico is one of only three states — the others are Washington and Utah — where an undocumented immigrant can get a driver’s license because no proof of citizenship is required.
  • MALDEF says the firing violated the federal Whistleblower Protection Act.

It’s fitting to note that New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, wants the law — allowing undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses — repealed.  And several things are happening in the state at the same time that the Montano case is making headlines: the issue is certain to come up as the New Mexico legislature beings it’s session this week; Governor Martinez has enacted an initiative to check the residency of immigrants with New Mexico drivers licenses; but a state judge has blocked that program.

MALDEF contends that Montano was ordered to not Speak Spanish to foreign nationals.

“Some immigrants would come in with huge files, sometimes 250 pages,” (MALDEF staff attorney Rebecca) Couto said. “She wasn’t able to tell them which documents she needed, so they left without licenses.”

Montano says  New Mexico’s DMV actions are in direct violation of state law. The lawsuit seeks “back pay and damages.”

[Photo By saxettom]

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