Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Lady Chose the Wrong Source for Her Humiliation

I don't know how much this story has played outside the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but it certainly covers a few hot-button topics: A Hispanic woman was ticketed for an illegal U-turn by Dallas police back on October 2, and she was also given an additional citation for "driving without being able to speak English." Now, Ernestina Mondragon has lawyered up and wants the city to investigate the police over racial profiling and so on.

Here's the thing: Whether or not you agree with the idea, it's not a crime to drive in Texas without the ability to speak English. But it is illegal to do so if you're a commercial driver. And the reason that the officer who ticketed Mondragon thought it was an infraction could be attributed to a common problem: Software error.
Dallas police said Friday that the charge was on a menu in the department's in-car computers, but it applies only to commercial operators, which means bus, truck and limo drivers.
D'oh. This has evidently happened a total of 39 other times over the past three years, and all those people, as well as Mondragon, will have those charges dropped.

That's as it should be. But Mondragon is upping the ante by asking the city to pay her medical bills:
[Mondragon] also incurred about $7,000 in medical expenses when she appeared to get ill after the traffic stop and her family took her to Baylor Medical Center at Garland. Her daughter said her mom was found to have stress-related symptoms and was admitted and kept overnight.

{Mondragon's attorney Domingo] Garcia said he also will file a claim seeking reimbursement of medical expenses.
According to the story, Mondragon says she was "humiliated" by the incident, which led to her hospitalization. But do we really want to go down that road? If she were to succeed in this effort, I could see all kinds of people trying to get money out of the city by claiming humiliation in the future--and don't forget, our many rights in this country do not include the right to not have one's feelings hurt.

Besides, this was a preventable episode. If Mondragon hadn't made the illegal U-turn in the first place, she never would have been stopped. It didn't help that she left her drivers license at home that day. But here's the thing that really gets me:
Garcia said Mondragon, 48, has been a legal U.S. resident since 1980.
. What? She's been here for at least 29 years and still hasn't bothered to learn the language? To me, that's the most humiliating thing about this story. If you're going to be in a country for nearly three decades, don't you think you should make at least the minimum effort to engage with that country? It seems like your embarrassment is a bit misplaced, ma'am.

Again, feel free to chime in if you think I'm all wet here.

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