NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

North Carolina Gives Illegals the Right to Drive

August 7, 2001

Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have taken advantage of North Carolina's liberal rules for obtaining a driver's license, allowing them at least partial entry into the mainstream of the United States and raising their earning power. Officials believe it is in the state's interest if all drivers have insurance and learn the laws of the road.

Officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service aren't happy with licensing procedures like North Carolina's, but they say there is nothing they can do about it.

  • Tennessee granted licenses to illegals in May, and the legislatures of California and Texas have also voted to grant the same privileges -- though the governors of the latter two states vetoed the measures.
  • And some states, including Georgia, Minnesota and South Carolina, have made licenses far more difficult to obtain for those who can't document their legal status.
  • South Carolina's motor vehicle division, for example, requires applicants to produce either a Social Security card or a letter from the Social Security Administration stating the applicant is in the country legally.
  • Meanwhile, North Carolina accepts Mexican military I.D. cards or voter registration cards from other countries.

Since 1997, North Carolina has issued 400,000 licenses and I.D. cards to people lacking Social Security numbers, about 260,000 of them Hispanic. The state acknowledges some were not North Carolina residents.

Source: David Firestone, "In U.S. Illegally, Immigrants Get License to Drive," New York Times, August 4, 2001.


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