Well surprise surprise.
By CLAY ROBISON
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Oct. 8, 2008, 11:59PM
Gov. Rick Perry applauded the change, which went into effect Oct. 1, as a way to strengthen the state's security.
"Texas is a great place to live and work, and while we welcome legally documented individuals to the Lone Star State, we must ensure that this privilege is not abused by those seeking to enter our country illegally," he said.
But Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the policy change is a bad idea because illegal immigrants are going to drive anyway.
"People have to drive to get to work. You want people to get (auto) insurance. They can't get insurance if they don't have a driver's license," he said.
The immigrant driver's licenses will look different than regular licenses so that they are immediately recognizable to police, Perry said.
The immigrant licenses will have a "temporary visitor" designation and the date the driver's legal U.S. admission expires.
No driver's license will be issued for anyone whose legal entry into the country expires in less than six months.
People with indefinite admission periods will get one-year licenses that will have to be renewed in person with proof that the applicant's lawful status has been extended.
Under the change, people who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States must present valid governmental documentation that they are in the country legally before they can obtain a driver's license or personal identification card.
The documents must be issued by the Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Natu-ralization Service or Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Border crossing cards won't be accepted.
Lawful permanent residents must present valid immigrant visas or U.S. resident alien cards before getting licenses.
U.S. citizens seeking an initial application for a license have various options for proving citizenship, including a U.S. passport, citizenship certificate or a combination of other documents, including a birth certificate, military records and voter registration card.
State law also requires all applicants for driver's licenses to provide a Social Security number.
But applicants can bypass that requirement by signing an affidavit that they have been deemed ineligible for coverage.
The affidavit doesn't require applicants to state why they have been denied Social Security coverage, DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said. And, she added, illegal immigrants could have obtained licenses by submitting fake Social Security cards.
She said the Public Safety Commission, the DPS' governing board, imposed the new restrictions for immigrants on its own. Similar changes in policy have been proposed by legislators, but none of those bills has ever become law.
"The commission wanted to make sure the driver's licenses and identification cards were as secure documents as we could make them," she said.
The DPS estimates that as many as 2 million of Texas' 16 million licensed drivers — one in eight — may be immigrants, many in the country illegally, Mange said.
"That's nonsense," Harring-ton said of the estimate. "I don't think anybody has any idea."
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, agreed.
"The idea that there's a flood of people (illegal immigrants) going into DPS offices, signing a form saying they're not eligible for a Social Security card and then getting driver's licenses is unbelievable," he said.
Coleman said the crackdown was election year "demagoguery" by Perry.
"It (immigration) is the issue that galvanizes their (Republican) base," he said.
Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky, of San Antonio, said he initiated the policy change after learning of a taxi driver in Dallas who had brought undocumented workers into Texas from other states so they could obtain Texas driver's licenses.
Polunsky said he didn't know the taxi driver's motives but found it disconcerting that illegal immigrants could easily obtain driver's licenses in Texas.
He said the new restrictions also bring Texas into closer compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, which requires states to create specially marked licenses for some immigrants.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Well surprise surprise.