Measure to let immigrants apply for Iowa licenses dies

| 3/11/2005

Iowa’s Senate Transportation Committee has snuffed out a last-gasp effort to make driver’s licenses available to immigrants who are not authorized to live or work in the United States.

Senators decided March 9 to postpone debate a second time on a study bill – SSB1171. The delay effectively kills the measure because most bills must be approved by at least one committee in the House or Senate by week’s end to remain alive.

The bill sought to allow an immigrant to get a license if the person has a valid passport, federal tax identification number and birth certificate.

Supporters of the measure argued that it’s a matter of public safety to have people licensed to drive and in a position to get auto insurance, rather than having them on the road with no license or insurance.

Opponents maintained that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants poses a security risk and rewards an illegal act. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled recently that people who are in the country illegally have no constitutional right to a driver’s license.

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

Backers of the legislation say it closes a “portal” for illegal immigrants to acquire documents and the trappings of citizenship. It “solves all those problems” of homeland security, supporters said.

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