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:
Training For All Drivers
Every driver on the road is operating a machine which could be fatal if it’s used improperly. Making a pathway for undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license will take untested and untrained drivers off the road and ensure they have the necessary skills to safely operate a vehicle. Cutting down on the number of unlicensed drivers on the road will make the streets safer for everyone and reduce accidents that result from driver error.
It Saves Americans Money
An EAD (Employment Authorization Document), Social Security number, and established residency are necessary to get this special type of driver’s license. Allowing immigrants to get a license when otherwise they could not, gives them a huge incentive to come out of the woodwork and get registered for official work permits and social security numbers. This incentive in turn means that the same people will be paying the taxes that fund the schools, roads, and law enforcement officials that they rely on each day. This fact reduces the tax burden placed on citizens.
More Insured Drivers
Lacking a driver’s license, social security number and other documentation make it both more difficult, more expensive, and much more intimidating to acquire car insurance. Since a large percentage of legal drivers purchase only the minimum coverage required by their state (often liability-only coverage), they’ll find themselves in hot water when they’re involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Even if you can legally determine they were at fault and are responsible for your injuries, they may not be able to afford your care.
At the end of the day, allowing undocumented residents to acquire a driver’s license will make our roads safer. Encourage undocumented people to become documented, and make the entire system more transparent.