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Amid the outrage over California Gov. Gray Davis’ decision to sign legislation allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses comes the stunning revelation by immigration experts that the Golden State is neither unique nor alone: 14 other states also allow illegal aliens to drive legally on their highways.
While many of those states – Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and West Virginia – have had such laws in place for some time, they have become increasingly scrutinized since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, say analysts with the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“Some states have since tightened their rules” regulating driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, David Ray, a spokesman for FAIR, told WorldNetDaily.
But, he continued, “the problem is there has been a complete lack of leadership on behalf of the federal government in issuing guidelines for what states need to do in the issuance of driver’s licenses to ensure illegal aliens don’t have access to them.”
He said absent leadership from Washington, a “vacuum” has been created regarding the issue, and states have been left to deal with it on their own.
That could change, however. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, has introduced legislation that would withhold federal highway funds from states passing laws allowing illegals to drive.
“A driver’s license can become a ‘breeder document’ for other documents for establishing false identities and gaining access to social services and voter registration,” Tancredo said last week upon introducing H.R. 3052, the State Accountability and Identity Fraud Elimination Act of 2004.
“It allows you to board airplanes and is basically a domestic passport,” he said. “Deliberately giving this domestic passport to several million illegal aliens is an act of incredible stupidity and callousness. Political expediency has reached a new low in California.”
Marti Dinerstein, a senior fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration-reform group, noted there is no uniformity for states granting illegals driver’s licenses.
“Presumably, each state has different requirements in terms of what they ask for – those breeder documents – to get those driver’s licenses,” she told WorldNetDaily. “But the breeder documents could be fake. So it defies common sense to give these to people living here illegally.”
Officials from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles denied the state grants licenses to illegal immigrants.
“Nevada has not, and will not, give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants,” one state DMV official told WorldNetDaily.
But Ray, like Dinerstein, said while Nevada doesn’t grant illegals licenses outright, loopholes in statutes make it “likely” illegal aliens are becoming licensed there.
Supporters say licensing illegals to drive is helpful in getting them to assimilate into American society. They also say illegals are going to be driving anyway, so it fosters overall safety to train and license them.
“We believe everybody who drives a car should have a driver’s license. It’s better for all of us if all drivers are properly licensed and insured. It makes us all safer,” Michele Waslin, senior immigration policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza told WorldNetDaily.
“Undocumented people are going to be driving, regardless if they have a license. So let’s give everybody one,” she said. “We don’t think there should be so many undocumented people here in the first place. But, as long as these communities are here, let’s deal with them.”
Opponents also say despite being able to drive legally, many illegal aliens still don’t bother purchasing automobile insurance, which – if they have an accident involving another vehicle – leaves the other driver out in the cold.
FAIR analysts say they have not seen any studies showing how many illegal aliens with valid driver’s licenses carry automobile insurance.
Ray said there is another area of concern regarding illegals with licenses: the fact the licenses have become de facto identification cards. That, he says, transforms the issue into a national security matter.
“It’s a document that most adults possess,” he said. “The problem now is that with the large number of states issuing licenses to illegal aliens, border inspectors are starting to question whether or not they’ll be able to accept driver’s licenses from certain states for re-entry into the country.”
Ray explained Americans who are from states that issue illegals licenses may soon have to go through the State Department and get a passport, even for travel to countries that don’t require one, to validate their U.S. citizenship – an unnecessary cost and hassle, he said.
“That’s quite a burden to impose on somebody,” he said. “But the fact that the federal government isn’t reining in the states on the issuance of the driver’s license is turning it into a non-secure, unreliable document that will continue to be sought by terrorists” and other potential threats.
Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, agreed.
“Certainly we need to review the policy of our inspectors at the border and their reliance upon driver’s licenses,” he said. “If driver’s licenses are given to people who are illegally in the country, then that puts an extra burden and difficulty on our inspectors at the border.”
In California – the most recent state to pass a driver’s license law – the issue may not be settled.
Republicans began working to get a measure on the ballot in March that will repeal the law Davis signed on Friday. CNSNews.com reported opponents of the law have 90 days from then to gather the required signatures – 373,816 –to make it happen.
Efforts are under way in other states to allow illegals to apply for driver’s licenses. About 150 demonstrators, waving signs and chanting, protested in front of the state Capitol in Atlanta, Ga., on Tuesday, demanding lawmakers let the state’s 1 million aliens get licenses.