Special driver's licenses on tap in Indiana

| 12/13/2005

An Indiana state lawmaker wants to give illegal immigrants in the state a special driver’s license if they pass an exam and purchase automobile insurance.

Rep. John Aguilera, D-East Chicago, said he plans to introduce a bill in the legislative session that begins Jan. 9 to allow illegal immigrants to obtain a license that could be used only for driving.

The special driver’s licenses would look different from licenses for citizens and legal aliens. The version for illegal immigrants would not be valid for identification or purposes other than driving.

Aguilera said roughly 300,000 illegal immigrants reside in Indiana.

A state permit would ensure that immigrant drivers have insurance and know the rules of the road, he told The Indianapolis Star. It could make them less likely to leave accident scenes, he said.

Tennessee and Utah recently established immigrant driving permits. California, however, saw its effort vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said the effort “is premature and could undermine national security efforts to identify individuals who pose enormous risk to the safety of Californians.”

Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a similar bill a year ago, said all along he would reject any driver’s license legislation sent to him before the federal government issues new guidelines intended to prevent terrorists from gaining access to state-issued licenses. Those regulations are expected next year.

States already are prohibited from issuing an official license because of a new federal law that requires applicants to present a Social Security card.

For a limited immigrant driving permit, applicants instead could present a federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service.