California to Let Illegal Immigrants Drive Legally, Which Is Not Actually a New Thing

"Enjoy" the new "privilege," immigrants!Credit: FontFont / Foter / CC BYCalifornia is joining 10 other states in allowing illegal/undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. Despite lagging behind states like Oregon, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, Gov. Jerry Brown somehow thinks the Golden State is some sort of pioneer in the area. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark law Thursday granting driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally, hailing the measure as an important expansion of immigrant rights and one that should serve as an example to other states.

"This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," Brown said outside Los Angeles City Hall, with Archbishop Jose Gomez and other dignitaries in attendance. "No longer are undocumented people in the shadows."

The driver’s licenses will have special marks indicating that they only confer “driving privileges” and are not legal identification for voter registration or to receive benefits. Nevertheless, the opposition seems to revolve around the idea that illegal immigrants are being granted more rights rather than being invited to participate in another bureaucratic licensing process. The Sacramento Bee has the whole political background on efforts for years to push this legislation through, also pointing out that rules against allowing illegal immigrants to drive in California were only passed in 1993. This actually isn’t a new rule – it’s an end to a relatively young ban.

Proponents hope allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses will reduce the number of hit-and-run incidences and increase the number of drivers with insurance. But the Los Angeles Times looked at what has happened in New Mexico, and it hasn’t seen a significant increase in insured drivers. And they’ve had fraud issues:

California is home to nearly one in four immigrants who live in the U.S. without legal status. The state can learn a lot about potential problems from New Mexico, which has issued more than 90,000 driver's licenses to foreign nationals since 2003, said Demesia Padilla, that state's secretary for taxation and revenue.

"It's been a disaster," Padilla said. "We have had a lot of identify fraud."

The state has broken up fraud rings that used false addresses and fraudulent lease and utility documents to obtain driver's licenses for immigrants who live in other states, she said.

But New Mexico’s problem is obviously due to being an early adopter. The fraud ring only exists because these policies don’t exist in other states. Now that California is on board, fraud might well go down there.

Information on insurance and illegal immigrants seems a bit confusing still. The Times story put these two paragraphs side by side:

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Insurance Regulation suggested that in states that grant driver's licenses to such immigrants, the rate of uninsured motorists had increased by almost 2%, resulting in more fatal car crashes.

In Utah, a 2006 state audit report showed that about 75% of those with the immigrant "driving privilege cards" had obtained car insurance, compared with 81% of those with regular licenses.

I don’t know how to square those two paragraphs in such a way that both make sense (and the journal study is paywalled, so I can’t get more than the abstract that the Times also obviously used). Important context is missing. I went hunting around and found this piece from the Denver Post earlier in the year. It explained that Utah didn’t track the percentage of uninsured drivers prior to the law’s passage, so they don’t know whether or not there’s been an increase in the number of illegal immigrants getting insurance. So perhaps I shouldn’t be holding my breath that my sky-high insurance rates will be coming down here in Los Angeles.

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  • Doctor Whom||

    A 2011 study published in the Journal of Insurance Regulation suggested that in states that grant driver's licenses to such immigrants, the rate of uninsured motorists had increased by almost 2%, resulting in more fatal car crashes.

    I see an issue with causation there.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Possibly.

  • wareagle||

    the state can give them driver's licenses but it can't expect them to go through the immigration process. But don't anyone mention the possibility of voter fraud.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    What immigration process would that be? The one where we keep them out unless they win a lottery, or stand in line until they grow old or die?

  • DJF||

    The one that makes between 1/2 million and a million people US citizens each year. Which is more then all the other countries of the world do combined

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    That's like saying you're tall because you're the tallest midget.

  • DJF||

    How are you a midget when you are the tallest in the world?

  • MWG||

    As a percentage of the population, we're diffinitely not the tallest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....population

  • sarcasmic||

  • Rich||

    "When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," Brown said.

    Some of us have *already* noticed California, Govnah.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    They might not want to try to use those licenses in Arizona. "Oh, so you admit you're here illegally..."

  • lap83||

    "But New Mexico’s problem is obviously due to being an early adopter."

    Oh, obviously.

  • pan fried wylie||

    the idea that illegal immigrants are being granted more rights

    Driving is a privilege not a right.

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    When I renew my driver's license, I am required to submit my SSN. Are illegal immigrants required to do the same?

  • H. Protagonist||

    AFAIK, they currently have no idea on what sort of "documents" the "undocumented" will be required to provide in order to receive a license.

    Which is where the NM experience will prove instructive. I think it will be quite difficult to set up a system that will allow illegal immigrants access to DLs while also having strong identity fraud protections.

  • i_want_you_to_think||

    one does not need to be a citizen of the USA to legally obtain a unique SSN#, the SSA has short forms for illegal immigrants to fill out to get an SSN# legally.

  • SuperAwesomeDude||

    Shortly before the changeover to black government in the 1990s, South Africa’s white leaders dismantled that country’s nuclear weapons. With whites becoming a minority in America, we should consider doing the same. We don’t want those weapons falling into the wrong hands in a Balkanized America.

    Mass immigration: Yet another reason to cut military spending.

  • i_want_you_to_think||

    Congratulations California, you finally figured out that trying to stop people from driving without citizenship is a huge waste of time, and that stopping people from driving without knowing how to drive, instead, is in the interests of public safety. I guessed this would happen when California legalized marijuana, immediately followed by a huge cleanup of California's former meth and crack problems. For their next trick, perhaps California will stop trying to push water uphill with a broom.

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