A police officer in Dallas wrote a ticket to Ernestina Mondragon for not speaking English, but this is not the first incident. The Dallas P.D. has issued numerous tickets for not speaking English:
Police in Dallas, Texas, are apologizing after learning that they have written dozens…of traffic tickets to drivers who can’t speak English. One of those motorists is Ernestina Mondragon, who was fined $204 for not speaking English during a traffic stop earlier this month. Mondragon also was ticketed for making an illegal U-turn and for not having her driver’s license with her. But the citation for not speaking English was insulting, she said.
“I felt humiliated. My self-esteem hit the floor. I felt like I’d been discriminated against,” Mondragon said in Spanish. She has lived in the United States legally since 1980, but has struggled to learn the language. A Dallas police department internal review revealed that 38 other tickets have been issued in the past three years to people who did not speak English. All those tickets are being dismissed and the fines will be reimbursed, said Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle.
The chief has launched an investigation into the officers who wrote the tickets and the supervisors who approved the work. “I apologize to the Spanish-speaking, Hispanic community. It’s particularly disappointing for a city like Dallas, because we are very, very diverse,” Kunkle said at a recent news conference. The tickets run counter to the state’s licensing practices. The Texas Department of Public Safety offers driver’s licensing handbooks and tests in Spanish. Its Web site includes a link to an all-Spanish version.
Confusion involving federal law might have led to the improperly issued tickets, Dallas’ police chief said. Federal law requires drivers of commercial vehicles — including trucks, limos and taxicabs — to speak English. But review by Dallas police showed that none of the tickets were issued to commercial drivers. Kunkle said his department’s switch to an electronic ticket system led to a “non-English-speaking-driver” charge appearing on a drop-down menu. Officers must have thought it applied to people such as Mondragon, the chief said. Critics, however, doubt that the tickets were a mistake and wonder whether officers were trying to send a message to non-English speakers.
“When it happens 39 times, then there’s something a little bit more serious that’s inherent in law enforcement in Dallas,” said Hector Flores of the League of United Latin American Citizens.