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Border & Immigration

Drivers Licenses For The Undocumented

Should undocumented immigrants be able to obtain driver’s licenses?

Three states — New Mexico, Washington and Utah — have laws asserting they should. Last week the Illinois House agreed, passing a bill likely to be signed into law by the governor soon.

It’s a complicated question. As we recently reported, after nearly a decade in place in New Mexico, the driver's license law has allowed thousands of immigrants to procure documentation, and also resulted in hundreds of incidences of fraud. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez wants to repeal the law, claiming it is a public safety issue.


In California, the state with the largest undocumented population in the country, a different argument is emerging, that these driver's licenses improve safety. A report from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, via the Los Angeles Times:

Unlicensed drivers in California — the vast majority of whom are illegal immigrants — are nearly three times as likely to cause a fatal crash as licensed drivers, according to a study by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If granted the ability to obtain licenses, the report claims undocumented immigrants would be forced to learn safer driving practices. The argument is they would be better drivers, which would lead to fewer fatalities on the road.

The study is the latest in a growing push for a law in California that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a state driver's license. Last week, Assembly member Luis Alejo (D- Salinas) introduced legislation that would make California the fifth state in the nation to do so.