Things That Matter

Trump Administration Is Looking Into Laws Allowing Undocumented Immigrants Driver’s Licenses

Last month, several Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in New York had lines of people around their buildings. It was quite a sight to see so many people standing in the cold temperatures waiting to finally get their driver’s license. For many of us, going to the DMV can be quite a drag. It’s a process we take for granted. For undocumented people, getting a driver’s license is one major step toward living out of the shadows. Not many states allow undocumented people to obtain driver’s licenses. But just last month New York became the 13th state to authorize licenses to undocumented people. Now the President of the United States is seeking to end it. 

The Trump Administration is seeking to study the security ramifications of states that authorize licenses to undocumented people.

Credit: @SpoxDHS / Twitter

Chad Wolf, the latest acting secretary of Homeland Security, sent a memo to all agencies of security including  U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, and inquired whether authorizing licenses to undocumented people affects “its enforcement efforts for both immigration and other investigations into human trafficking, drug smuggling, and counterterrorism,” NBC News reports. 

This inquiry is particularly interesting because President Donald Trump has always had issues with the separation between federal and state laws, particularly in states where undocumented people benefit from Sanctuary laws.

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As we have noted in the past, Trump has threatened state lawmakers that protect undocumented people from being turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by state authorities including in California and New York, among others. 

Now that more states are granting driver’s licenses to undocumented people, Homeland Security is attempting to rewrite these laws if they see proper cause to do so. Meaning, if Homeland Security finds that undocumented people with official driver’s licenses are committing crimes such as human trafficking and drug smuggling, they do have the ability to prohibit access to driver’s licenses. 

According to NBC News, “Wolf’s directive asks that each agency survey what DMV information is already available, how it is used in day-to-day operations, and what are the security consequences without the data.”

However, Homeland Security having access to information obtained by the DMV could be problematic especially if documents provide data on how is a U.S. citizen and who is not.

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“The Trump administration takes the mission of protecting the Homeland very seriously,” DHS spokeswoman Heather Swift told the network. “These types of laws make it easier for terrorists and criminals to obtain fraudulent documents.”

With the start of the New Year, more DMV offices have granted undocumented people access to driver’s licenses including in Colorado. 

While Colorado passed a law in 2013 that allowed undocumented people access to driver’s licenses, in 2020 at least ten more DMV offices will provide driver’s licenses to this community.

Credit: @ConorMichael28 / Twitter

“Expanding access to driver’s licenses will improve the quality of life of countless working families Colorado, will increase our economy and make our state stronger in all aspects. This is the result of the tireless work of the community in defense of immigrants in Colorado and are proud to be their allies by the Coalition I-Drive to create more opportunities for Colorado families,” FWD.us, a bipartisan political organization, said in a statement. 

Some may be wondering why it’s so important for undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses if they’re already living here without documentation. The answer is easy: for safety reasons.

Credit: @TheToddSchulte / Twitter

Without any form of identification, undocumented people have a harder time finding work because they have no way of getting there without a car. By having a license they can now have car insurance as well and this provides safer road conditions for everyone. More so, having a formal ID allows this community to come out of hiding, and gives them a freedom they didn’t have before. 

In California, statistics show that undocumented people with driver’s licenses didn’t lead to more hit-and-runs, as some anti-immigrant groups thought it would. It led to a decrease “in the rate of hit-and-run accidents between 7 and 10 percent.”

In 2015, California experienced 4,000 fewer hit-and-run accidents because of the new licenses issued. However, just because state officials have allowed these licenses to be issued, doesn’t mean county clerks are willing to do it

READ: Trump Administration Is Attempting To Violate State Laws By Requesting Driver’s License Information

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