Undocumented immigrants should be granted Illinois driver’s licenses

Americans today tend to believe that undocumented immigrants should not receive a driver's license because they have illegally entered the country. Illegal immigrants have to carry out daily activities such as driving to their jobs to sustain themselves or taking their children to school. Furthermore, these undocumented drivers, like licensed drivers, might have accidents.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “More than 14% of all accidents are caused by uninsured drivers resulting in a $4.1 billion in insurance losses a year (reported in New York Times Upfront). In a 2007 statement, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton stated, “Granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants would reduce the number of hit-and-runs and increase the number of insured motorist on the road.” Bratton highlights what I consider an important point about all drivers being insured and having a driver’s license.

Undocumented Immigrants in theU.S.should receive driver’s licenses, proving that this new law will improve the lives of all U.S residents.

The New York Times, in an article by Jennifer Medina, reports, “The battle to grant licenses to illegal immigrants  in California began in the mid-1990s. State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles pressed for and got legislation passed giving illegal immigrants the right to a license in 2004, but facing a statewide referendum opposing the change, he withdrew it.

Now, with just a few months left in his final term in office, Mr. Cedillo has vowed to pass the legislation again.” He argues that it’s difficult to get the state to grant driver's licenses to all undocumented immigrants and I agree because even thought the legislation was able to pass the law, there was no support in the community.

Others argue that “states that issue the same licenses to illegal and legal residents will soon be in violation of new federal standards.”(New York Times Upfront editorial).  In an editorial, James Jay Carafano from the Heritage Foundation states that driver’s licenses will complicate the federal system because undocumented immigrants will take advantage of this law to receive other federal benefits.

However, states do not necessarily need to issue the same driver’s licenses that legal residents receive. For instance, “Utah issues special licenses to people who cannot prove their citizenship. These licenses are good only for driving but not for other uses like boarding airplanes” (New York Times). Therefore, federal law can resolve these issues by granting undocumented immigrants different driver’s licenses that are not similar to U.S citizens’ driver's licenses.

Illegal immigrants come to the U.S to work hard and achieve the American dream, and undocumented immigrants having a driver’s license will only help them prosper. In the editorial accompanying Carafano’s, Tyler Moran from the National Immigration Law Center states, “There are at least 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States; they are our neighbors, our classmates, and our coworkers. They didn't come to the U.S. to get a driver's license, but like most Americans; they need to be able to drive to get to work, to take their kids to school, and to carry out daily activities.” Tyler mentions an important point because undocumented immigrants are part of our community; in addition, illegal immigrants with or without a driver's license need to carry out daily activities that require driving.

In a May 3 New York Times article, Andrew Smith, a Police Department spokesman, states, “'You have situations where you are pulling someone over and you've got a husband pulling out the baby seat from the car and a wife crying. For us, that's a really difficult thing when we want to show some humanity.'' Officer Smith realizes how arrest affects undocumented families, and I agree undocumented immigrants become mortified at that point, even when the stop is routine.

I wholeheartedly endorse what officer Smith calls justice and humanity since illegal immigrants feel that they are being discriminated for their ethnicity rather than their actions. Illegal immigrants fear that one small mistake from breaking the law is the result of deportation and being separated from their family. Therefore, the new law will allow state officials to cooperate with these situations.

When Melissa Block fron NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Governor Spitzer ofNew Yorkin 2007, Block asked Spitzer if “giving illegal immigrants’ driver licenses would make the country less safe, that it could help criminals and terrorist get identification.”  Spitzer responded, “Clearly it’s preferable to have them licensed, have names and faces in a database. The DMV database is the most frequently searched and sought- after database in the nation from a law enforcement perspective because it’s comprehensive nature. Having millions, in essence, live below the radar screen is not healthy at any level.”  In other words, Spitzer believes it’s a benefit to have everyone identified under a federal secured database because it will create a safe and secure community.

Granting driver’s licenses will not put the community in danger because, as recent research has shown, “the police department for years has tried to cultivate trust among immigrants.” (New York Times). A relationship between immigrants and police officials would increase cooperation with police investigations. Instead of immigrants being part of a hit-and-run accident due to the fear of being deported, undocumented license drivers will be more willing to face regular crime procedures for breaking the law. These drivers will be insured and tested for vision and driving ability. Safe drivers with license will help the community be under great protection and help police officers identify criminals when stopped and asked for identification.

The vote in Illinois passed the Senate and will be presented to the House probably this month.  Ray Long from the Chicago Tribune reported “Under the program, undocumented immigrants would be eligible for the special, three-year licenses to drive a vehicle. It would be a different in color from a regular driving license. It also cannot be used for identification purposes, such as for boarding a plane, buying a gun or voting.” Not only the new law enforces federal identification purposes; at the same time, Senate President John Cullerton states, "Licensing and insuring all immigrant drivers will ease the burden on jails and courts, which are currently drained by holding people solely for driving without a license or insurance."

Overall, the idea of undocumented immigrants will allow our state to have safe highways and help police officers incriminate people for crimes rather than stopping undocumented immigrants for living the American dream.

By Bianca Cervantes, Hancock Senior

Sources:

Medina, Jennifer. "A Change in Police Policy Has Immigrants Hoping for More." New York Times 3 May 2012: A18(L). Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

Lacey, Marc. "License Access In New MexicoIs Heated Issue." New York Times 24 Aug. 2011: A1(L). Gale Student ResourcesIn Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

"Should illegal immigrants be able to get driver's licenses? Six states currently allow them to do so." New York Times Upfront 14 Apr. 2008: 22.Gale Student ResourcesIn Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

"Illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses in New York."The New American 26 Nov. 2007: 10. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

"Illegal immigrants to get New Yorkdriver's licenses."The New American 29 Oct. 2007: 8. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

"Spitzer Drops Illegal-Immigrant License Proposal."All Things Considered 14 Nov. 2007. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 18 Dec. 2012.

Long , . "Illinoisdriver's licenses for illegal immigrants measure advances." Chicago Tribune News 29 Nov. 2012, n. pag. Web. 18 Dec. 2012. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-29/news/chi-illinois-drivers-licenses-for-illegal-immigrants-measure-advances-20121129_1_licenses-for-illegal-immigrants-immigrant-drivers-license-issue>.

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