A driver's license policy will not mend the nation's shattered immigration system, but it does provide a realistic solution for a very real issue. Congress' failure to pass immigration reform has left states scrambling to address the matter on their own.
What's the dilemma?
Most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States drive whether they are licensed or not, which results in unsafe driving conditions. Restricting immigrants from obtaining a license means they miss out on taking driver's education courses and road tests. Not to mention, higher insurance rates prevail since unlicensed drivers are more likely to be uninsured and to flee the scene of an accident.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson touted his success with a similar piece of legislation, saying, "When we started with this program, 33 percent of all New Mexicans were uninsured. Today, it's 11 percent. Traffic fatalities have gone down."
Police Chief William Bratton said, "As former Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and now Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, I support efforts that have the potential to solve crimes and improve traffic safety. That's why I backed legislation in California that would give undocumented immigrants the ability to get a driver's license once they have provided proof of their identification. It is my belief that by doing that you would reduce the number of hit and runs and increase the number of insured motorists on the road. We would also now have undocumented immigrants' identifying information on record such as photographs and addresses, which could prove helpful in the fight against crime and terrorism."
So, while there is no doubt that immigration remains a looming question in the United States, denying driver's licenses to illegal immigrants does not appear to be the answer.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.