Should States Issue Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants in the United States Illegally?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, in a Sep. 2005 study titled "Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Aliens," offered:

"Those who favor licenses for illegal immigrants say that licenses provide more information about who is living in any given community, help undocumented residents better understand driving laws and road rules, help keep bad drivers off the road and improve our national security. Those who oppose licenses say giving undocumented immigrants driver's licenses offers government approval of their illegal immigration status which could lead to even further immigration in the future. They also claim that national security is at risk if undocumented immigrants are allowed such licenses."

Sep. 2005 - Institute of Government Studies 



PRO (yes)

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, in an article accessed on Apr. 8, 2016, "Licenses," available on their website, stated:

"New Jersey has over 500,000 undocumented immigrants working and living by our side. Other states have already taken the steps to ensuring that their communities adjust to these demographic shifts by passing policies that will ensure the safety and harmony of all.

One of these policies is the legislation that would expand access to driver licenses to undocumented New Jerseyans in our communities…

Allowing all residents, regardless of immigration status, to be tested, licensed and insured would create a safer New Jersey and allow its residents to engage more in the economic, social and cultural life of the state."

Apr. 8, 2016 - New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice 



The Boston Globe Editorial Board, in a Sep. 7, 2015 editorial, "Immigration Status Has Nothing to Do with Driving Skills," available at bostonglobe.com, stated:

"More policy makers have come to the realization that granting driver's permits to the undocumented is in the best interest of public safety and perfectly compatible with federal law…

In states that issue permits to illegal immigrants, the policy has largely been self-funded; i.e., fees collected from applicants pay for the costs of issuing the permit, such as startup and staffing costs and any technological upgrades…

Licenses are a privilege that all drivers, citizens and noncitizens alike, must earn. Making licensing available to every motorist who can prove driving competence reduces the number of uninsured drivers, creating more equitable insurance costs.

…It's in the public interest to acknowledge realities and put the safety of all motorists ahead of the politics of immigration."

Sep. 7, 2015 - Boston Globe 



Dannel Malloy, JD, Governor of Connecticut, in a statement quoted in the May 31, 2013 article, "Connecticut to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Driving Licenses," available at colorlines.com, stated:

"This bill is first and foremost about public safety. It's about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they're operating registered, insured vehicles. There's a reason these measures have been supported by local police and city leaders, and that other states are taking similar common-sense steps. They're changes that benefit everyone taking a car out onto our roads and highways."

May 31, 2013 - Dannel Malloy, JD 



Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Chief, in a Feb. 22, 2012 article, "LAPD Chief Backs Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants," available at latimes.com, stated:

"The reality is that all the things that we’ve done – ‘we’ being the state of California – over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense.

Why wouldn't you want to put people through a rigorous testing process? Why wouldn't you want to better identify people who are going to be here? It doesn't make any sense to me. And we could increase safety on the roads. When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction."

Feb. 22, 2012 - Charlie Beck 



Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., in an Oct. 2013 newsletter, "States Continue to Expand Immigrants’ Access to Driver’s Licenses," available at cliniclegal.org, stated:

"By ensuring that individuals without immigration status can pass driving exams, obtain insurance, and legally drive to work and elsewhere, such measures make our roads safer for everyone, stimulate the economy, and promote fuller integration of immigrants into our communities. Immigrant families can carry on with their lives without the fear of being stopped by the police, fined or charged with driving without a license, and possibly referred to ICE for removal proceedings."

Oct. 2013 - Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) 



The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), in a Jan. 2004 presentation entitled "Immigrant Access to State Driver’s Licenses: A Tool Kit for Advocates," stated:

"Immigrant driver’s license restrictions demonstrably do not deter illegal immigration, but they do cost lives. State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) are charged with guaranteeing the safety of our roads and highways, but they neither have the resources to enforce, nor are they effective in enforcing, federal immigration policy...

While increasing our national security is critical, restricting driver licenses (DLs) is an inefficient way to enforce immigration laws and prevent terrorism... Furthermore, press accounts since September 11 have called attention to the fact that the hijackers had obtained DLs when, in fact, the terrorists did not need U.S.-issued DLs to board the planes on September 11; they had foreign passports that allowed them to board.

In fact, denying driving licenses to large segments of the population makes everyone in the community less safe. Restricting DLs results in unsafe roads, higher insurance rates, and overwhelmed court systems... Restricting DLs results in the proliferation of false documents."

Jan. 2004 - Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund (MALDEF) 



The Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, in a Dec. 17, 2004 press release entitled "Not Issuing Driver's Licenses to Illegal Aliens Is Bad for National Security," offered:

"If 13 million people living within our borders can't drive, fly, travel on a train or bus, or otherwise participate in society without a driver's license and they cannot get a legitimate one, then the market will supply them an illegal fraudulent one...

On the other hand, if illegal aliens are allowed to get legitimate licenses upon thorough vetting of their identity, then the only ones who will be trying to get fraudulent documents will be terrorists or criminals...

Fourteen states currently allow driver's licenses to be obtained without showing 'legal presence.' These laws were enacted for public safety reasons -- to ensure that drivers meet some standard to drive and to lower insurance premiums by decreasing the pool of unlicensed and uninsured drivers...

The analogous arguments hold for national security -- the more we can encourage otherwise law abiding people within our borders to participate in the system the easier it will be to identify those that pose a true threat."

Dec. 17, 2004 - Stillwell Center for Advanced Studies in Sci and Tech Policy (formerly the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology) 



CON (no)

Rob Sampson, Connecticut State Representative (R), in a May 18, 2015 speech, available at cthousegop.com, stated:

"We are all the descendants of immigrants, and I certainly support legal immigration, but by issuing documents that legitimize the presence of those who have come into our country illegally, we cannot verify the criminal histories of these individuals, or their health histories. In addition, I fear that although it is stated that these licenses cannot be used for the purpose of voting, that there are not enough safeguards to prevent it from being abused in such a fashion…

This program has caused a tremendous increase in lines at the DMV and as public policy it is ill-advised and unworkable."

May 18, 2015 - Rob Sampson 



Chris Christie, JD, Governor of New Jersey, in a Nov. 16, 2015 article, "Christie: Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants 'Irresponsible, Dangerous,'" available at patch.com, stated:

"I am disturbed by the Legislature even considering making undocumented individuals eligible for New Jersey driver's licenses. As a former United States Attorney, I know that the driver's license is the single most important piece of homeland security information. Yet the Legislature proposes giving that to people with no definitive proof of their identity."

Nov. 16, 2015 - Chris Christie, JD 



Edmund Kozak, political reporter for LifeZette, in an article accessed Apr. 8, 2016, "States to Illegal Aliens: Welcome," available at lifezette.com, stated:

"Many states are offering illegal immigrants a host of goodie bags brimming with benefits at the expense of the American taxpayer. These states are putting their security at risk and undermining federal efforts to control illegal immigration…

Unfortunately, many states have decided to go into the business of encouraging illegal immigration.

Some 605,000 of the roughly 1.4 million drivers’ licenses issued in California last year went to illegal immigrants.

Not only did the state allow aliens to obtain licenses — they actively encouraged it.

After the passage of Assembly Bill 60 on Jan. 2, 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles embarked on a widespread information campaign, holding 200 community outreach events at a variety of locations, issuing Spanish-language messages on social media and creating a new page on their website dedicated to the new law.

The cost of this outreach — coupled with the cost of processing the new applicants — is estimated at $141 million over three years. Of course, this cost will be borne by the legal citizens of California. While California clearly wants illegal immigrants to drive, it hasn’t yet made any efforts to require those immigrants to pay taxes."

Apr. 8, 2016 - Edmund Kozak 



David Seminara, Fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies, in an Oct. 22, 2014 article, "Oregon Voters Oppose Driver's Licenses for Illegals," available at cis.org, stated:

"Voters are deeply skeptical of measures providing any sort of benefits to illegal immigrants for good reason. In the United States, where a huge majority of citizens do not own a passport, a driver's license provides de-facto legitimacy…

It also sends a mixed signal to illegal immigrants, many of whom aren't fluent English speakers and don't understand all of the nuances of our political system. If the state takes their photo and hands them an official looking card, that gives them a feeling of legitimacy and no doubt confirms their impression that the United States isn't serious about enforcing immigration law."

Oct. 22, 2014 - David Seminara 



Cass Ballenger, MBA, US Representative (R-NC), in a Sep. 17, 2002 press release on his co-sponsored Drivers' License Integrity Act, H.R. 5322, argued:

"In too many cases a person's immigration status is not even an issue in granting a license or ID. Clearly, we must address that shortcoming, as it has direct bearing on our national security... A driver's license or state identification card is an essential tool, used by illegal aliens to solidify their presence here and to move about freely. This is a clear threat to our safety and economic security."

Sep. 17, 2002 - Cass Ballenger, MBA 
H.R. 5322 (11 KB)  



The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in an Oct. 2005 website section titled "Driver's License Security," offered the following:

"In an increasingly security-conscious America, access to driver's licenses by people in the country illegally poses serious risks and undermines U.S. immigration law. Proponents of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens have argued that it would improve national security and road safety. The security argument is spurious, because illegal aliens often use aliases and phony documents, so the alien’s identity and residence is not established as a result of the driver’s license process...

The argument about road safety relies on a faulty assumption that if illegal aliens are legally licensed to drive, they will all have accident insurance. But even if a state requires automobile insurance as a condition of getting a license, that does not keep an illegal alien from canceling the policy the next day. Illegal aliens generally are working in low-wage jobs and have difficulty affording insurance, and their cars are frequently older and more accident-prone.

Additionally, illegal aliens often are not able to read road alerts in English. In many of the countries from which illegal aliens come, it is standard practice for motorists involved in accidents to flee the scene. The combination of these factors adds up to the probability that, if more illegal aliens were encouraged to drive by issuing them driver’s licenses, it would lead to more accidents caused by uninsured motorists and many would be hit and run."

Oct. 2005 - Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)