California legislators recently passed legislation which will permit undocumented individuals the legal ability to drive. The driving cards carry the notification that it is for driving ID purposes only, and it does not establish eligibility for employment, voting, or seeking public benefits. Also it cannot be used as ID for entering federal office buildings or getting past the TSA checkpoints at airports. California joins a handful of states(Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Illinois and Washington) now allowing or having passed legislation allowing for this possibility(Colorado and Oregon).
Backers of the proposals in California and other states argue that the benefits of the legislation include police being able to identify ALL individuals pulled over for traffic stops, ALL operators of motor vehicles on the road have familiarity with the traffic laws and rules(have they driven on a road lately?), making sure that ALL individuals operating vehicles on the road have insurance(good luck with that. Not even all legal resident/citizens drivers have insurance currently), and increasing state revenues from the fees charged for the authorization cards.
Studies in some of the states which have passed laws previously, especially New Mexico, seem to dispute these benefits and also found that fraud(in the form of undocumented individuals from other states coming to New Mexico to obtain these driving authorization cards). There is a current move to repeal the law there. Many of the problems cited in the New Mexico repeal attempt caused Tennessee to repeal a similar law several years ago. There are too many unscrupulous individuals out there who will use the lure of these driving authorization cards to take money from those in states which don’t have them and want them. The record is full of such stories.
Latino civil rights groups such as LULAC and MALDEF only want to talk about the positive side of the cards. They do a disservice to members of their communities by not fully acknowledging the downside. They certainly have not made efforts to work with authorities to root out these schemes.
While I can see the pluses in the idea of the driving authorization cards, I understand the biggest potential pitfalls: anyone applying for and using these cards will be assumed(and rightly so) to be an undocumented individual. Potential employers are not going to risk their businesses for these individuals. No matter how much you publicize that these cards are not to be used for identification purposes when filling out a I-9 form, there are going to be a lot of cases where holders of these are going to do so. They will do it because they will believe that these cards governmental recognition of their right to be in the United States. The cases that develop will be press fodder for those who don’t want to see the issue of the undocumented addressed. Every traffic citation and automobile accident involving those carrying these driving authorization cards will be the talk of Facebook and Twitter.
The only real solution to the question of driving privileges for the undocumented will be comprehensive immigration reform. The problem with that is those on both sides of the aisle in Congress as well as the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have too much to gain by NOT reaching a workable plan.
By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity Jeffery Cassity writes weekly for the Being Latino! website and writes regularly for the Sacramento Press website. His articles have also appeared previously in the El Conquistador newspaper(Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the Kenosha(WI) News and the Sacramento(CA) News & Review. Jeff also has written a number of unproduced(so far) feature movie and TV pilots which he hopes to turn into a late in life career in Hollywood, Mexico City, Beijing and/or Dublin. Follow him on Twitter @jcassity05. Also read his blog containing all his written articles I am Puddin’.