Illegal immigrants lose Utah driver licenses, but may still drive

| 3/9/2005

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman on March 8 signed a bill into law to take driver’s licenses away from undocumented immigrants and issue them a driving “privilege” card instead.

The card cannot be used as identification to register to vote, board a plane, open a bank account or obtain a driver’s license in another state. The new law, effective immediately, requires the card to be renewed annually and will be a different color than Utah’s regular blue driver’s license.

It will read, “For driving privileges only – not valid for identification.”

Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said the new law, previously SB227, closes a “portal” for illegal immigrants to acquire documents and the trappings of citizenship. It “solves all those problems” of homeland security, he said.

Utah residents without a Social Security number will not be able to get a driver’s license or an identification card. Drivers licenses already possessed by undocumented immigrants must be surrendered on the drivers’ birthdays or on July 1, whichever comes first.

Immigrant rights activists are rankled by the new law. They say it amounts to second-class privileges, encourages racial profiling, and allows the police to corral the undocumented for deportation.

Lawmakers supporting the effort, however, said they were alarmed by a legislative investigation that found 95,000 noncitizens, sometimes using common addresses, had a Utah identification or driver’s license, and more than 300 had illegally registered to vote and 14 had actually cast ballots in the past election.

“It’s scary, being taken advantage of,” said Sen. Gregory Bell, who voted for restricting licenses for immigrants.

“Once they get a Utah driver’s license, it’s a platform for everything else,” Bell, R-Fruit Heights, told The Associated Press.