LAPD Chief Charlie Beck supports giving those in the country illegally the opportunity to obtain a California driver's license. "It could be a provisional license, it could be a non-resident license," he told the L.A. Times.
Why does the LAPD chief believe that this licensing rule would be beneficial?
Beck cites the high number of hit-and-run accidents as a symptom of the problem represented by unlicensed drivers. If illegal immigrants involved in vehicular accidents did not have to worry about being caught at the scene without a license, they would not flee the scenes of the accidents, the chief reasons. In addition, Beck sees an advantage in licensing every driver on the road -- in the country legally or not -- and registering those residents who are thus far not documented. Former Chief Bill Bratton had previously come out in support of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants in California. Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich also supports a change of the law.
Do other states issue licenses to illegal immigrants?
Yes, there are currently three states that offer driver's licenses to undocumented residents. They are Utah, Washington and New Mexico.
How do these states regulate the issuing of these licenses?
Utah offers a driving privilege card (DPC). The Utah Department of Public Safety requires applicants for a DPC to obtain an individual tax identification number from the IRS, reside in the state for at least six months, and obtain a Utah learner permit. Recipients of the card may not receive a commercial driver's license or a state identification card. Applicants undergo a driving test and fingerprinting.
The Washington State Department of Licensing requires applicants to bring a proof of identity and residency. Applicants must pass a written and skills test, undergo a vision screening and be photographed. While commercial driver's licenses are only issued to applicants with valid social security numbers, the state does issue ID cards to illegal immigrants. Washington accepts various documents -- to prove an applicant's identity -- issued by Guatemala and Mexico.
New Mexico's Motor Vehicle Department specifies that illegal immigrants must bring a proof of identification and a validation of New Mexico residency, such as utility bills or bank statements. Foreign documents must be translated. Applicants are tested. For a commercial driver's license, applicants must present a proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residence.
Are politicians unequivocally in favor of these laws?
No; in fact, plenty of politicians in states, where driver's licenses are currently issued to those in the country illegally, are working to rescind the laws. The New York Times reported in January that New Mexico is once again debating the wisdom of issuing these driver's licenses. A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez suggested that "the policy of giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, which nearly every other state has repealed or opposed, leads to fraud, human trafficking, organized crime and significant security concerns." "We are attracting a population to the state of Washington that distorts the state budget, makes teachers scream about overcrowded classrooms and absconds with congressional seats," Washington residents told the Seattle Times, when a new bill invalidating the policy was introduced last year.
Sylvia Cochran offers an insider's perspective of the American immigration system. Having gone through the steps of becoming a citizen -- and currently living in a border state -- she brings hands-on familiarity with hot-button issues to the table.