As local governments across the U.S. crack down on illegal immigration, three states that proudly offer undocumented aliens driver’s licenses have seen a big surge in the number of cards issued to those who are not in the country legally.
New Mexico, Washington State and Utah have long allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and all three have seen a major increase in undocumented applicants since Arizona passed its immigration control law earlier this year. Hawaii also offers illegal immigrants driver’s licenses but was not featured in this particular analysis, which was conducted by a national news organization.
It reveals an astonishing 60% increase over last year in the rate of driver’s licenses issued to immigrants in New Mexico, Washington State and Utah during the 10 weeks that followed approval of Arizona’s measure. New Mexico issued 10,257 licenses to immigrants through the first six months of 2010, compared with 13,481 for all of 2009.
Utah gave 41,000 illegal immigrants driver’s licenses through the first week of June compared with 43,429 for all of 2008 (the state did not provide data for 2009) and Washington granted 3,200 licenses to people from outside the U.S. during the same period, surpassing the pace of 5,992 for all of 2009.
The states allow illegal immigrants to get licenses simply by not requiring proof of legal residency. Maryland ended the practice just last spring by denying licenses to motorists who can’t prove they’re in the country legally. Earlier this year Utah became the nation’s first state to offer a special class of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants who will be ineligible to obtain the cards when new federal security standards kick in.
To protect illegal immigrant drivers when a national identification law (Real ID Act) takes effect, Utah actually created a two-tier system that assures undocumented aliens will get a special license valid only in the state. Motorists who are legal residents or citizens will receive a “regular” driver’s license and illegal aliens will get a driving privilege card, which can’t be used as identification at places such as airports.
Another illegal alien sanctuary state (Wisconsin) came close to offering the same benefit but the measure, inserted into budget legislation, was killed at the last minute by legislators who had come under fire for even considering it.