Issue Report: Drivers licenses for Illegal immigrants in the US

Should illegal immigrants in the United States be allowed to obtain drivers licenses?

In the United States, illegal immigration is a major problem. Sources indicate that there are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The size of the illegal immigrant population makes it difficult to adopt a policy of mass deportation due to both issues of practicality and humanitarian concern, while also making the social impact of this population quite large. The social impact is particularly relevant on United States roads, where illegal immigrants are driving without driver’s licenses and without the driving instruction required in obtaining a driver’s license. Many believe that, for the safety of both illegal immigrants and US citizens, that illegal immigrants should be offered driver’s licenses. They also consider such a step to make sense as part of a general effort to integrate illegal immigrants into American society. Opponents generally contend that illegal immigrants should not be given any document that legitimizes their presence in the United States and helps integrate them into the fabric of society. Rather, they argue that illegal immigrants should be deported and attempt to apply to enter the country legally. This issue came to a head in New York City in 2007 when city Mayor Elliot Spitzer proposed that illegal immigrants be offered driver’s licenses, primarily based on the argument of increasing road safety. While his proposal failed to achieved the necessary political support, it constitutes a significant example for other cities and states that continue to weigh the merits of the idea.

Social: Are there broad social reasons for providing illegals with driver's licenses?

Illegal immigrants in America should be integrated into society

Illegal immigrants that are currently residing in America are active members of American society. They typically lead productive and law-abiding lives consistent with American ideals. Their only illegal action was entering the United States. As such, efforts should be made to integrate them into American society, and providing them the option of obtaining driver’s licenses is a good way of achieving this.

It is not feasible to deport millions of illegal immigrants from the United States

It is not possible to deport between 10 and 12 million illegal immigrants. Therefore, integration is the best option. Offering illegal immigrants driver’s licenses is in line with this course of action.

Deporting millions of illegal immigrants from America would result in a humanitarian crisis

Sending millions of illegal immigrants back to their home countries would result in a humanitarian crisis, particularly in Mexico. The best response, therefore, is to better integrate them into the fabric of society. Providing them with driver’s licenses fits into this moral course of action.

Illegal immigrants should not be integrated into American society, but rather deported.

The primary basis for this argument is that illegal immigrants are, inherently, in the United States illegally. On a purely legal basis, they should not be afforded legal documentation such as a driver’s license, and should be deported. Beyond the legality, many argue that the presence of illegal immigrants is harmful economically and socially to lawful citizens, providing additional cause to moving away from integration and such measures as providing illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses.

Driver's licenses would have to be offered to ALL illegal immigrants (not just Mexican)

This debate often assumes that driver’s licenses would simply be offered to illegal Mexican immigrants, with the claim that the US economy is dependent on these “productive” illegal immigrants. But, what about other groups of illegal immigrants that may be “less desirable”? What about an illegal immigrant from, for example, Iran? The problem is that the proposition tends to base its arguments off of only one particular group of illegal immigrants (Mexican immigrants constituted around 57% of the illegal immigrant population in 2007[1]), while seemingly denying the costs of accepting other groups of illegal immigrants into this program.

Legality: Is there a legal basis for the proposition?

Illegal immigrants enjoy equal protection under US law

The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1868 to secure rights for slaves, holds that states must provide equal protection under the law to all persons (not only to citizens) within their jurisdictions. Section 1 of the fourteenth amendment holds, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The case Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), saw the Supreme Court of the United States strike down a state statute denying funding for education to children who were illegal immigrants. It established that regardless of legal status, illegal immigrants are still ‘persons’ and thus protected as such under some provisions the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, notably the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This precedent has been interpreted to mean that illegal immigrants should also enjoy equal protection in regard to access to driver’s licenses.

Offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses would violate the rule of law

Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants provides legal status to individuals that have knowingly broken US laws. The Immigration and Nationality Act clearly states that illegal aliens should be deported. These long-standing laws must be upheld. Offering illegal immigrants driver’s licenses clearly violates these laws and the impression that the United States is capable of enforcing them. It also undermines the notion of rewarding law abiding citizens and punishing those that break the law. Why should illegal immigrants be allowed to get away with their illegal acts. US citizens (not illegal aliens) are not afforded this luxury of forgiveness in the face of the law. Therefore, the proposition is an unwarranted and immoral concession that undermines the consistency of US law.

Illegal aliens with new driver's licenses should not be trusted to respect laws

Criminals cannot be trusted to respect US laws. Since illegal immigrants are, inherently, criminals, they should not be trusted to respect US laws with new driver’s licenses.

Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants undermines legal immigration

Offering illegal immigrants driver’s licenses will unfairly subvert the process that all other immigrants have to go through to become legal citizens of a country.

Drivers licenses for illegal aliens act as "breeder documents" for further illegal actions

Drivers licenses can be used by illegial aliens to obtain many things in society obtained by ordinary, legal citizens. This is wrong.

Road safety: Will offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses make American roads safer?

Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US

With millions of illegal immigrants lacking drivers licenses, there are millions of drivers on the road who have not taken a driver’s license test and who probably do not know the traffic safety laws. This is dangerous, and issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens would help resolve this.

Providing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will not make US roads safer

While some argue that US roads will be made safer with illegal immigrants in possession of drivers licenses, this is not necessarily the case. If illegal immigrants break US laws to get into the country, why should they be expected to abide by driving laws when they obtain driver’s licenses.

Access to driver's licenses will not lead illegal aliens to obtain insurance

Most illegal aliens do not have the money to spend on insurance.

Deporting illegal immigrants will make roads safe from them.

Another obvious argument is that, if we are to make the roads safer from illegal immigrants who do not have drivers license then deportation of these immigrants can also serve as a solution to the problem

National security: Will the proposition improve or harm national security?

Offering drivers licenses to illegal aliens will improve national security

Drivers licenses to illegal aliens will bring these individuals out from the shadows into the open. This is good for security in general, as it allows for greater tracking of individuals and leads to greater individual feelings of accountability within a societ that they are part of.

Post 9/11 fears should not cause the US to deny driver's licenses to illegal immigrants

To let the fear of terrorists drive immigration policy in the United States, is to let the terrorist enemy win. While some fears are warranted, the United States should not let these fears dictate its most basic, open, immigrant-nation principles.

It is already very easy for illegals to fake their identity; offering them driver's licenses won't change much.

Driver’s licenses are not the end-all-be-all of identity in the United States. Illegal immigrants are effectively faking passports, driver’s licenses, and other items of identification. Therefore, the provision of driver’s licenses won’t be too dramatic of a shift.

Offering illegal immigrants drivers licenses is a national security threat

Many terrorists, including 9/11 terrorists, obtained driver’s licenses as a means to perform their acts of terrorism. They used driver’s licenses to move more freely around the United States, and to get onto the airplanes that were used in the 9/11 attacks. Driver’s licenses, therefore, are a primary tool for terrorists or any individual that may pose a national security threat of some kind. While illegal immigrants should not generally be viewed as terrorists or national security threats, the poor background information on them, that they are foreign in origin, and that they illegally crossed a national boundary may make them more likely terrorists suspects than other groups. This should lead America to the conclusion that offering illegal immigrants driver’s licenses poses national security risks.

Passport security difficulties are minor and don't justify driver's licenses to illegal aliens

Passport security has been substantially improved. Therefore, it is not valid to claim that giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants will NOT add significantly to the security vulnerabilities in the United States.

Illegal immigrant fugitives might be offered driver's licenses

Many illegal immigrants are fugitives from their home countries. The United States may have not means of determining this, and yet will be offering such individuals driver’s licenses.

Stemming immigration: Will the proposition help decrease illegal immigration to the US?

Denying illegal immigrants driver's licenses does not address the problem of illegal immigration

The illegal immigrant problem in the United States cannot be resolved by mass deportation. The only other course of action is to integrate these populations. Offering them driver’s licenses is an important part in this step.

Issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants would help gather important information

A serious part of the illegal immigrant problem is the lack of information on this group of American society. Offering illegal immigrants driver’s licenses will bring this group of the population out of the shadows and into the arena of public record.

Illegal immigrants will not risk deportation to obtain a drivers license

In the United States, there are uncertainties regarding the future of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants know this, and they will not risk their deportation to obtain a driver’s licenses. Therefore, they will simply not sign up for the program.

It would be wrong to provide illegal aliens an incentive to obtain driver's licenses.

Any incentive offered to illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses risks being viewed as a reward or concession for illegal behavior. This is wrong.

Offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will incentivize more illegal immigration

A big part of solving the illegal immigration problem is creating dis-incentives for entering the United States. This is one of the reasons why pressure is being put on employers to stop hiring illegal aliens. Yet, driver’s licenses for illegal aliens will provide a significant spur to future illegal immigration. It will be a signal that the United States is willing to accept, accommodate, and integrate illegal aliens. In this way, the proposition is detrimental to the effort to reduce illegal immigration. Given the fact that the United States suffers from the largest illegal immigration problem in the world, this is a major problem with offering driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in the United States.

America is capable of enforcing immigration law

If America really wanted to uncover and deport illegal immigrants it could. It is generally capable of enforcing immigration laws, making it wrong to view illegal immigrant driver’s licenses as the only remaining alternative.

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