St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking Criticizes Proposal for Special Licenses for Undocumented Drivers

For most Americans, driving to the store to pick up a missing ingredient or picking up your child is secondhand nature. For undocumented immigrants, driving somewhere may be the last time they have the chance to do so in this country. For California’s 2.6 million undocumented immigrants, the majority of them drive to support their families and contribute to the community, so some are asking – why not allow them to have the same driver’s license as everyone else so that all drivers may be tested, licensed and insured.

No benefit to singling out immigrants

For younger, undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, they are able to obtain a regular license that looks the same as any other American citizen. However, there is a new wave of supporters asking to change the driver’s license bill to require a “Scarlet letter” type marking on the card. This would come in the form of writing on the card that states “not lawfully present.” Critics argue this type of branding and singling out of immigrants is unsafe and unfair to them. In a time when Congress is trying to finalize an immigration bill that would include a path to citizenship, there seems to be no benefit to building another exclusive provision that opens up immigrants to discrimination.

New license opens immigrants up for harassment

For some of these undocumented immigrants, they have lived in the country for decades, but there is no line to get in for any sort of legal status. If the AB 60 driver’s license bill does pass and immigrants end up getting this new type of driver’s license with the “Scarlet letter,” everyone will know they are here without documentation. When renting an apartment, it is mandatory to send a copy of your driver’s license with the application. If the landlord knows one is not here lawfully, they may take advantage of the immigrants. During a minor traffic violation, immigrants could be jailed, have extended detentions and then finally be deported. Some say the “not lawfully present” marker on the driver’s license is nothing but an invitation for harassment. Unfortunately, racial profiling is the reality that people live in and while most value diversity and inclusion, it is important to protect immigrants from those that do not think so. Instead of the exclusive license that would separate undocumented immigrants from the rest of people, one standard license for all residents that enables them to get insurance and drive safely would make more sense.

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