Pew study finds several problems in the state-based drivers licenses for illegal aliens programs

Article publisher: 
Denver Post
Article date: 
November 26, 2015
Article category: 
Colorado News
Medium
Article Body: 

...About a dozen states, from Vermont to California, have run into a range of problems as they have launched state-based programs to expand driving privileges to millions of residents [illegal aliens] living in the shadows, according to a new report.

These challenges include allegations of fraud in Vermont, trouble with access in Colorado and high demand in California and Connecticut...

Since Colorado began issuing alternative licenses in August 2014, about 14,000 residents have taken advantage of the program. Although that figure is significant, it's still below the rate that Colorado expects — state officials have estimated it will issue about 78,000 licenses over three years.

Much of the trouble in Colorado has been financial. The legislature this year feuded for weeks over funding for the program, and the state was forced to cut from five to one the number of offices that issue the alternative licenses — which cost about $80 each, more than three times the cost of a regular license.

Ultimately, lawmakers agreed to spend about $513,000 on the program this year, and Colorado has since increased to three the number of offices that provide these licenses: Denver, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs.

The state also lifted a temporary freeze on the scheduling of new appointments, although that hasn't necessarily led to a flood of new licenses...

From the report Deciding Who Drives, Pew Charitable Trusts, July 2015, updated September 3, 2015.

Overview

U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants can routinely obtain and renew driver's licenses, but some states have decided to allow unauthorized immigrants—those who do not have explicit permission from the U.S. government to reside in the country—to do so as well. As of the summer of 2015, 10 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia issue driver's licenses, or similar documents referred to by different names, to this population, and nearly 37 percent of unauthorized immigrants live in a jurisdiction where they may obtain a license ...

[...] As of August 2015 ... Colorado ... issue unauthorized immigrants [illegal aliens] an existing temporary license that certain lawfully present immigrants receive ...

Deferred action and driver's licenses

Federal initiatives that allow certain unauthorized immigrants to avoid deportation have an indirect impact on state driver's license laws and highlight the relationship between federal immigration policies and state laws and policies. On Nov. 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced an executive action that could allow up to 4 million unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, or who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, to be eligible to avoid deportation (called "deferred action"). Under the program, they could get employment authorization documents and a Social Security number ...

Costs and revenue

...Colorado's fiscal note projected several one-time startup costs, including $390,000 to design and create new licenses with modern document security features, almost $36,000 to reprogram the driver's license technology system of the Department of Revenue, and smaller amounts for legal review and rule-making and to create and print forms to be signed by applicants ...

Colorado Alternative license

[Costs] $50.50 [Issued for] 3 years

Changes to computer systems and programming also may be needed to accommodate new documents or to reflect a new license design. Technology upgrades or new websites may be needed if a state is going to create or expand an appointment system. For example, Colorado reported that it undertook major programmatic and computer system changes to be able to accept new types of documents.The state's fiscal note estimated a onetime information technology cost of over $425,000 to reprogram its computer system ...

...The Colorado ... statutes require that unauthorized immigrant [illegal alien] applicants attest in writing that they will apply to legalize their immigration status as soon as they are eligible to do so ...

Proof of state residency

...For example, Colorado ... require unauthorized immigrants to show that they have lived in their jurisdictions for a specified period of time, ranging from six months to two years, before they can receive a license ...

Exceptions to the Rules

If applicants cannot provide required documentation, at least four states offer or intend to offer special procedures, sometimes called "exceptions processing." These procedures allow issuing agencies to consider—on a case-by-case basis—alternative documents if an individual cannot meet the specific requirements. The process for exceptions may be included in statute or in the regulatory process, or it may be an already existing procedure ...

... In Colorado ... these processes are available to applicants for all types of licenses ...

Fraud

Because they cannot obtain U.S. government-issued identity documents and Social Security numbers, some unauthorized immigrants may have previously used false identities, false addresses, or fraudulent documents to obtain driver's licenses for which they were not eligible. When those people apply for alternative licenses, the previous use of fraudulent documents often surfaces. States issuing alternative licenses should consider procedures for identifying and treating earlier fraudulent behavior while determining under what conditions a valid alternative license can be issued ...

Confidentiality

...Colorado's law does not include provisions regarding sharing information about immigration status. It does, however, specify that immigration status violations are federal offenses, and it prohibits state and local police officers from using an alternative license as a basis for arrest for immigration violations ...

Conclusion

Each of the 11 jurisdictions that have decided to issue driver's licenses to unauthorized immigrants [illegal aliens] has taken its own path from enacting law to issuing licenses. As this report shows, they make many significant decisions when designing and implementing license programs...

 


 

CAIRCO Research

Drivers Licenses for Illegal Aliens