Should immigrants illegally living in Florida be given valid state driver’s licenses?
We may be about to find out.
Sen. David Simmons chairs the Legislature’s Judicial Committee and will introduce a bill in the 2020 session to do just that. What’s significant — or surprising — about this is Simmons is a Republican, and in a leadership role.
First let’s clear something up. Is an illegal alien the same thing as an undocumented immigrant?
The Dictionary of Modern Usage says yes:
‘“Illegal alien’ is the legally precise and preferred term: The usual and preferable term in American English is illegal alien. The other forms have arisen as needless euphemisms, and should be avoided as near-gobbledygook. The problem with undocumented is that it is intended to mean, by those who use it in this phrase, ‘not having the requisite documents to enter or stay in a country legally.’ But the word strongly suggests ‘unaccounted for’ to those unfamiliar with this quasi-legal jargon, and it may therefore obscure the meaning.”
Interestingly, being an illegal alien in this country is not crime. Entering the county illegally is. That was decided by the Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe.
However, Justice William Brennan wrote … “… it is wrong to equal illegality with criminality, inasmuch as many illegal acts are not criminal. Illegal alien is not an opprobrious epithet: it describes one present in a country in violation of the immigration laws (hence illegal).
So that sets up an odd sort of social/legal conundrum.
Proponents of allowing illegal aliens driver’s licenses say the upside includes ensuring those driving have passed the course required by every 16-year-old in the state. Illegal drivers don’t carry insurance because a driver’s license is a prerequisite to getting it. So allowing licensing would take uninsured drivers off the road.
In a states where licensing is legal, hit-and-run accidents are decidedly down.
The Pew Research Center estimates Florida now has 775,000 illegal aliens living (and driving?) here.
Proponents say immigration status has nothing to do with driving skills. Bottom line is denying driving licenses makes communities less safe, drives insurance rates up, overwhelms an already crowded court system and exacerbates the problems associated with false documents.
Opponents say issuing driver’s licenses legitimizes the presence of people who come here without any verification of criminal or health histories.
Some argue that benefit and others are offered at the expense of tax-paying workers, and illegal aliens pay no taxes. That’d debatable, but certainly true in many cases. It was estimated California’s license outreach program cost the state $141 million — for 605,000 licenses delivered to illegal aliens.
In Oregon, voters were said to be “deeply skeptical of measures providing any sort of benefits to illegal immigrants for good reason. In the United States, where a huge majority of citizens do not own a passport, a driver’s license provides de-facto legitimacy.”
There are more arguments for and against the issue.
From where we sit, what makes the Florida issue especially interesting is our state already passed laws allowing illegal aliens going to colleges here to pay in-state, resident tuition rates. So how would we justify allowing one and not the other? Either both or wrong or both are right.
And that will be a big issue when lawmakers meet again, this year in January in Tallahassee.
One more thing: Would handing out driver’s licenses not officially sanction “documentation?” — and make moot the notion of the undocumented immigrant and/or the illegal aliens?
What are your thoughts on legal driving by illegal aliens? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.