NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Increase Security of Driver's Licenses

May 15, 2003

Should illegal aliens be allowed to obtain driver's licenses? A driver's license is the pass to board a plane, as well as the license to a drive car. It confers a sort of quasi-citizenship and, as described by one illegal alien in Texas, "The driver's license ends up becoming our pass to be in this country."

Since 9/11, 21 states have enacted new legislation to make it harder to get driver's licenses, and legislation has been introduced in another 22 states. Even in Idaho, State Sen. Cecil Ingram told a public hearing, "This has turned out to be a bigger problem than I thought."

  • The states embarrassed by the 9/11 hijackers have gotten the message: Virginia passed a bill to stop issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens, while Florida and New Jersey passed legislation to coordinate driver's licenses with immigration visas.
  • New Jersey, where paper driver's licenses did not require a photo, is now converting to state-of-the-art digitized licenses with a dozen covert and overt security features, including a mandatory photo, bar code, hologram and digital signature.
  • Tennessee, another state known to be casual about issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens, is considering a measure that would require driver's license applicants to present a document showing they are legally in this country.
  • Minnesota is trying to address the controversy through a proposed Department of Public Safety rule that would require visitors to present documents to prove they are in the country legally, and would issue them licenses that would expire with their visas.

The U.S. Transportation Department reported last year that we lack sufficient safeguards, particularly from the many states that do not require applicants to prove they are legally in the country.

Source: Phyllis Schlafly, "Should illegal aliens get driver's licenses?", May 13, 2003.


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