Skip to comments.Immigrants in Tennessee Issued Certificates to Drive
Posted on 05/09/2005 7:53:28 AM PDT by Crackingham
Behind the counter at the busy Hart Lane driver testing center here, Rosa King looked over the man's fistful of documents, including a Mexican birth certificate and a separate, typewritten English translation. The translation, Ms. King explained in Spanish, was not exact enough. It would have to be redone. When the man returned, he would be eligible for a card bearing his photograph, date of birth, height, eye color and the words "Not Valid for Identification."
Tennessee is one of only two states that issue two different driver's permits: a license, for citizens and permanent residents; and a certificate for driving, primarily for those who cannot prove they are here legally. To satisfy domestic security concerns, the state has tried to forbid the certificate's use as identification. Utah also has a two-tiered system.
With Congress preparing to require states to issue driver's licenses only to citizens and legal residents, other states that want to allow noncitizens to drive may begin looking to Tennessee's system as a model.
What they will find is the uneasy paradox of a legal document for illegal immigrants. Police departments, insurance agents, banks and even beer vendors have been left on their own to decide how to treat the certificates amid the pitched arguments of conservative legislators and advocates for immigrants.
Critics have complained that the federal bill will require driver's license examiners to act as the immigration police. Here, to some degree, they do, ferreting out fraud and navigating the thicket of 994's, H-1B's, H-2A's, green cards and other papers that confer legal status. If the federal law passes, the difference here may be one of precision.
"We are just doing the best we can with the documents," said Lisa Knight, the assistant director for driver's license issuance for the Tennessee Department of Safety. "If this law passes, we're going to have to look at sending all of our employees to classes that teach all the different documents."
Driver's licenses are just one of many issues Tennessee has had to grapple with as its immigrant population swells. From 1990 to 2000, the state's Hispanic population nearly quadrupled to 124,000, according to census records. Since July 1, when the certificate program was instituted, more than 21,000 have been issued.
Gov. Phil Bredesen's office said the certificates made the state's driver's license policy "the toughest in the nation." But in fact, Tennessee is one of only 12 states that do not require proof of legal residence to drive legally, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
The state began allowing people without Social Security numbers to obtain driver's licenses in May 2001. At the time, some cited Tennessee as an example of a state that welcomed immigrants and diversity. Almost immediately efforts to repeal the law began, with lawmakers citing first long lines at driver testing centers and, after Sept. 11, security concerns. Demand for licenses exploded, and state officials say the policy attracted illegal immigrants. Mr. Bredesen said the certificates were a compromise that balanced public safety and domestic security.
"Its purpose is to make sure people understand the law and the rules of the road," said Melissa McDonald, the spokeswoman for the Department of Safety. "You can't buy beer with it. You shouldn't be able to board a plane with it."
Uh-huh. And what if those rules are posted on the road in a language the driver doesn't understand?
It's not even worth the bother to go to the Hart Lane facility to try to re-new your drivers' license. Between a crowd of illegals and the general incompetence of the state workers, a person would spend maybe 2 days there. I do know of another way to go about handling a renewal, but I'm not sure that making it widely known is a good idea since that might ruin it. I'm just glad that my Handgun Carry Permit could be renewed by mail.
Once again confusing illegal with legal immigration. Maybe it's just lazy journalism, but I can't help but wonder why we bother with any distinction at all between 'legal' and 'illegal' in any area whatsoever.
Exactly correct. Leave it up to the headline writers at the NY Times to conflate legal and illegal immigration by using the overly-broad term "immigrants".
What part of "illegal" don't the geniuses understand?
instead of a driver's license, they should be giving them a ride to the airport! ONE WAY!
For what it's costing American taxpayers to allow illegals to stay here, we could FLY all of them home and still be ahead of the game at the end of the year!
This is exactly what Gil "One Bill" Cedillo wants to do in Colliefornia, now that his dream of giving illegals licenses identical to those of legal residents has been twarted by the feds. What I'm wondering is what's to keep the Border Patrol from obtaining access to the state databases and going out and investigating everyone with a "not suitable for ID" type license?
Protect our borders and coastlines from all foreign invaders!
Be Ever Vigilant!
Minutemen Patriots ~ Bump!
>>What I'm wondering is what's to keep the Border Patrol from obtaining access to the state databases and going out and investigating everyone with a "not suitable for ID" type license?<<
The BP won't find anybody at the a false address! LOL
>>......why we bother with any distinction at all between 'legal' and 'illegal' in any area whatsoever.<<
If you reach such a point you'll be making the MSM's day.
To wipe out "ILLEGAL ALIENS" and use any other combination of words is exactly the MSM's target.