The Federal REAL ID Act requires localities verify the “lawful status” of people who are issued a driver’s license or ID card in the US. Several states, including California, Illinois, and Maryland are legalizing, or have legalized, a sort of second-class driver’s license for people who cannot prove legal residency in the U.S. This license certifies drivers but can’t be used for federal purposes like social security applications, or any public benefits. The decision to issue such licenses has been politically contentious from both sides of the immigration reform debate – with immigration rights groups concerned about it being used as an aid in racial profiling, and social conservatives worried about it granting any level of legitimacy to illegal immigrants.
Irrespective of political leanings, issuing some form of driver certification to people who would otherwise be driving without any documentation has some major practical advantages for American citizens, such as, the following: