Indiana making it hard for immigrants to drive, advocates say

INDIANAPOLIS — Advocates for refugees and immigrants say Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles is hampering their ability to get a driver’s license.

The agency offers some accommodations, including a written exam in 14 languages, The Indianapolis Star reported. The exam can also be read in English to a person who has a disability, lacks basic literacy skills or has failed it twice.

But advocates say the state should provide interpreters or translating services to help people get a learner’s permit. They say requests for accommodations are not widely known and too complicated.

Furaha Sandrine, a refugee from Burundi, said she pays someone $30 a week to drive her to work because she’s failed the driving exam four times.

“It’s stressful,” Sandrine said. “You want to go to the hospital, you want to go to work, you want to go to the store — you need to get a ride.”

DeeEllen Davis, a social worker and volunteer on Wesley United Methodist Church’s refugee care team, said some refugees decide to drive illegally or buy a fake license.

BMV spokeswoman Christine Meyer said the agency had relied on interpreters but switched the policy when it discovered “multiple instances” of interpreters providing answers during tests.

She said the agency is reviewing the exams and will make recommendations for future needs. A solution could be in place at the end of 2018.

“Requests for accommodation are addressed on a case-by-case basis to meet the needs of the situation and to provide an equal opportunity for all individuals to pass the required exam,” Meyer said.

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