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Groups Urge Repeal of Tex. Drivers-License Requirements

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 road.

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October, President Clinton signed into law the Federal Transportation Bill (H.R. 2084, now cited as P.L.106-69), which repealed Section 656 (b) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.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  Due to the voiced concerned of citizens, the mandate has been repealed.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 Status

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.

INS Documentation

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.

Recommendations

We 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.

Sincerely,

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