Who's Behind the Push to Give Illegal Aliens Driver's Licenses…in Texas?

Earlier this week, the left-leaning Austin American-Statesman editorialized that it's time that Texas establish driver's licences for illegal aliens.

In the editorial, the paper calls for Texas to join the 11 states plus the District of Columbia in granting driver's licenses to those who are in the state illegally. This issue cost California Gov. Gray Davis his job a few years back, in that Democratic state. It's fair to say that it would be a very controversial move in Texas as the Republican-controlled legislature gets set for its 2015 session, and presumed Gov. Greg Abbott (R) presides over his first session. Presumed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) would also be presiding over his first session, in the Texas Senate.

The Statesman avoids the politics and pitches a case for road safety.

While not everyone who drives without insurance is living in the U.S. illegally, allowing undocumented immigrants the option to drive legally would make Texas roads that much safer.

A bipartisan bill recognized that in 2013. HD 3206 would have allowed undocumented immigrants to drive legally in Texas and addressed concerns about voting, security and other rights reserved for legal residents.

Under that measure, undocumented immigrants living in Texas would have been issued a special “Texas resident driver’s permit” that looked different from a regular driver’s license. The permits wouldn’t have been used for any federal purposes, such as going through airport security. It would have allowed undocumented drivers, who are already on Texas roads, to drive legally and get quality auto insurance, a huge problem when you consider that currently more than 2.5 million, or 14.3 percent, of vehicles in Texas lack coverage. In Travis County, 120,125 vehicles (more than 13 percent) are not insured.

Not all of those uninsured cars belong to illegal aliens, of course, in Travis County or statewide.

HD 3206 did not fare well in the last legislative session. It got out of committee but died on the calendar. But its backers intend on bringing it forward again next year, even though the state legislature is likely to be even more Republican than the 2013 edition.

There is much to unpack in what the bill proposes, and the Statesman endorses.

The mere fact that the driver's license for illegal aliens would look different from other state driver's licenses and would not be used "for any federal purpose" means that the state will end up creating a database of all illegal alien drivers in the state, or at least of those who apply for this particular license. The federal government might become interested in that data, if it ever gets around to securing the border. Would the state of Texas refuse to provide that information to the federal government, if it is ever asked to?

It also means that any illegal alien holding such a license would still have a reason to flee the scene of an accident in many non-sanctuary jurisdictions. Police will recognize the license and might arrest the holder to process for deportation. The fact that it could not be used for "any federal purpose" is meant to assure Texans that they will not be used in voter registration. It also means that the license cannot be used as a form of ID for entering federal buildings, boarding aircraft or writing checks.

Illegal aliens will know all of this. They will also know that in order to obtain the special license, they will have to take a driver's ed class. They will have to either fill out a special form identifying themselves as present in the country illegally, or they will have to check a box on a form that everyone fills out, that does the same thing. Along the way of getting this special license, they will have to identify themselves to government officials as breaking immigration law.

Or they could buy a fake license on the black market, as many have done for decades. Or they could take their chances and drive without a license at all, as many have done for decades.

The special new illegal alien license would also, according to the editorial, enable them to purchase car insurance to comply with state law. In that process, they will identify themselves to the insurers as illegal aliens. Insurers will be knowingly selling products to people who are breaking the law and who might pose flight risks. Besides that, illegal aliens can already purchase car insurance, if they choose to.

The Statesman gets into none of these weaknesses in the plan it supports. Neither do any of the plan's persistent backers.