Monday, October 7, 2013

Undocumented Drivers

With over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, states have taken it upon themselves to deal with many of the immigrants as they see fit.  Many undocumented immigrants work at jobs that others do not want.  But they get to these jobs by driving a car.  Many states do not allow undocumented immigrants a legal way to obtain a driver's license; many undocumented immigrants drive illegally, without a license.  California has become the 10th state to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license.

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60) into law on Thursday.  AB 60 allows undocumented immigrants in California to receive a driver's license.  Well, sort of.  The driver's licenses given to undocumented immigrants will have DP, which stands for driving  privilege on them, rather than DL for driver's license.  This identification cannot be used for federal identification purposes.  So they cannot be used for employment or federal benefit purposes.

There are nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants driving illegally in California.  Some do not understand the rules of the road or can read English.  Dan Rosenberg, one of the leading opponents of the bill, considers this to be one of the biggest issues with the bill.  Rosenberg's 25 year old son was killed in a car accident with an uninsured undocumented immigrant.  Rosenberg testified against the legislation because it does not require additional training to ensure that undocumented immigrants are safer at driving.  Undocumented immigrants wishing to receive a Driver's Privilege License (DPL) must pass an eye test, a written exam on the rules of the road, and a driving test.  These are the same requirements for non-undocumented immigrants.  Complaints about lack of training for other drivers have not been raised.

New Mexico's Governor Susana Martinez has argued for the repeal of their law, that grants undocumented immigrants a similar license, multiple times.  One of the reasons she cites has been fraud.  New Mexico has broken up fraud rings that used false addresses or other fraudulent documents to receive drier's licenses for immigrants who live in other states.  While eligibility requirements are still being discussed in California, the legislation recommends using an identification card or passport from the immigrant's home country in conjunction with a home utility bill, lease agreement, birth certificat, marriage license, college transcript, or income tax return to establish identity.

AB 60's goal is to crack down on the undocumented immigrants who are driving without a license because they are likely driving without insurance.  Because undocumented immigrants do not have a license or auto insurance, when they are in an auto accident, they very often flee the scene.  Hit and run car accidents have  a higher fatality rate than other car accidents.  A 2006 state audit in Utah found that 75% of undocumented immigrants with DPL's obtained auto insurance compared to 81% of people who have regular licenses.  People with licenses and auto insurance are less likely to be involved in a hit and run accident, because they will not run.

Bills such as AB 60 should be passed with strict enforcement on those who engage in fraud.  AB 60 and bills like it help regulate a practice that is currently happening to make it safer.  As we continue with immigration reform, we should focus on bills that deal with the undocumented immigrants who are currently here.

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