Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 99110501 (posted Nov. 5, 1999)"
Texas Immigrant and Refugee Coalition
3218 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 103, Austin, TX 78721
Tel. 512-457-1963 · Fax 512-457-9871
November 3, 1999
Mr. Mike Anderson
Chief of Drivers License Division
Texas Department of Public Safety
5805 N. Lamar, Building A
Austin, TX 78773
Dear Chief Anderson:
We, the undersigned, represent community-based
organizations, advocates, and attorneys throughout the state of Texas.
We write to urge you to revisit changes made to Section 15.30, TAC,
concerning Identification Certificates. The
requirement of Social Security numbers (SSN) and proof of legal status has not
only created confusion in the community of what is needed to obtain a drivers
license and identification card, but also encouraged unsafe drivers to take the
Federal Mandate Lifted
In early October, President Clinton signed into law
the Federal Transportation Bill (H.R. 2084, now cited as P.L.106-69), which
repealed Section 656 (b) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act of 1996. Section
656 (b) required states to collect, verify, and display social security numbers
on state-issued driver’s licenses and conform with federally-mandated uniform
features for driver’s licenses. Measures to expand the use of SSNs for this
end and other steps that could lead to the creation of a national I.D. card have
been opposed by national legislators and organizations, including
Representatives from Texas like Dick Armey and Ron Paul, the Eagle Forum,
National Conference of State Legislatures, the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) and others. Due to the
voiced concerned of citizens, the mandate has been repealed. The requirement of a SSN infringes on the privacy and
personal rights of every resident of Texas.
Texas Legislature Stance
In the 76th Legislative Session, Texas
legislators dismissed H.B. 2938, which would have required the Texas Department
of Transportation to adopt a new driver’s license application that would have
included the collection of an applicant’s social security number.
State legislators realized that would have allowed the creation of
another SSN databank, thus unlatching another outlet for unscrupulous
individuals to commit fraud and victimize innocent Texans.
In states like California, where the use of social security numbers in
state driver’s licenses has been approved, a rise in fraud and unlicensed
drivers has occurred.
INS Backlog Impedes Securing Social Security Numbers and Proof of Legal
In addition to issues of fraud and public safety,
many legal permanent residents (LPR), refugees, asylees and other individuals
waiting for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to process their
applications cannot apply for a driver’s license because they lack a social
security number. These individuals
are future U.S. citizens residing in Texas. To deny these individuals a state
driver’s license is unjust.
Furthermore, verifying the legal status of an
individual is a complex determination. For
example, often it takes years for INS to adjust eligible individuals to
permanent residence status. Such
immigration decisions should be left to INS.
Currently, INS has 26 different documents that prove the
lawful presence of non-citizens in the U.S.
For all DPS offices to effectively comply with the regulation, every
single staff person would need time-consuming, costly and continually updated
training to recognize and understand all 26 INS documents.
In addition, to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
avoid exposure to litigation, every single individual applying for a license
would have to provide proof of citizenship and status verification.
Encouraging Unsafe Drivers
Most importantly, the current requirements encourage
unsafe drivers on Texas’ roads. For
the majority of Texans, driving is the only means of transportation.
Immigrants waiting on the INS backlog are being forced to drive without
proper training and without insurance. This
situation is a hazard to the public safety of every Texan.
recommend for the Texas Department of Public Safety to return to its pre-1997
requirements. A birth certificate,
no matter the country of origin, should be enough to attain a picture I.D. and
apply for a driver’s license. If
the driver’s license applicant does not possess a social security number, then
he/she may provide a taxpayer identification number; a letter from the Social
Security Administration stating that the applicant’s name does not match to a
social security number; or submit a sworn affidavit. The more stringent the requirements become, the more unsafe
the roads of Texas.
Requiring proof of legal status should not be the
undertaking of the Department of Public Safety; such task should be left to INS.
We urge you to repeal Section 15.30, TAC, and
consider the recommended alternatives.
Texas Immigrant and Refugee Coalition
National Council of La Raza – Texas Program Office
State Bar of Texas Committee on Laws Relating to
Immigration & Nationality
Political Asylum Project of Austin