Skip to comments.Immigrant drivers in limbo
Posted on 12/23/2006 10:11:56 AM PST by SmithL
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ When the state Legislature began allowing immigrants living in Tennessee to obtain driving certificates, regardless of whether they were in the country legally, Alicia Leon jumped at the chance.
Then last February, after several high-profile cases of fraud that delivered driving documents to illegal immigrants living outside Tennessee, the Department of Safety suspended the program.
Immigrant advocates hoped the problems would soon be worked out, but with the last of the certificates issued before the suspension set to expire in the next couple of months, there is no word on when or even if the program will be reinstated.
Jose Gonzalez, an advocate for immigrants with the Nashville nonprofit Conexion Americas, hopes to see the program restored as quickly as possible.
Illegal immigrants who have lost the ability to drive legally already were worried, he said, but the recent announcement of a pending program that would let sheriff's deputies in Nashville check the immigration status of every person who is booked at the county jail has created a real panic.
Leon's certificate _ which she calls in Spanish a ''half license'' _ expired in May. Now the Mexican native who has been here 11 years tries to drive only when she can't get a ride from someone else or take the bus, because she is afraid that driving could lead to her deportation.
''Sometimes accidents happen that are unexpected,'' she said. ''With a license, we don't have to be afraid.''
Leon and her husband have talked to an immigration lawyer about getting papers to stay in the country legally, but they were told to wait and see what happens in Congress, she said. In the meantime, she worries.
''My husband and I sometimes talk about what would happen if I were arrested and he were here with the children? What would happen if I were arrested? What would we do?''
Sheriff's office spokeswoman Karla Crocker said illegal immigrants are unlikely to be deported for something like a broken taillight. Even if the federal government does allow sheriff's deputies to check the immigration status of prisoners, most people pulled over for minor traffic violations will not be taken to jail.
Nevertheless, illegal immigrants are very afraid that any minor violation could start them down the road to deportation.
''The fear they live with is inhuman,'' Gonzalez said.
But Tennessee is unlikely to restore the program until the Department of Homeland Security issues specific guidelines for compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which sets national standards for state driver's licenses, said Mike Browning, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Safety.
After REAL ID is implemented, licenses that do not comply will not be accepted for things like boarding planes or entering federal buildings.
Tennessee's certificates allow illegal immigrants to drive legally but are stamped with red letters saying they cannot be used for identification. That was a change made after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The certificates were being studied as a possible way to handle ''non-conforming drivers'' under REAL ID.
State Department of Safety officials, including interim commissioner Gerald Nicely, have informally met to discuss how the federal law will affect Tennessee, Browning said, but the state is in a holding pattern with regard to the certificates.
Advocates say the certificates make the roads safer. Their argument: Illegal immigrants already are driving so should know the rules of the road.
But before the program can be revived, it could be repealed.
State Sen. Bill Ketron introduced two of four bills in the last Legislature to repeal the certificates. He plans to reintroduce them in 2007.
''I want to keep the roads safe,'' he said. Adding, ''The process was so easy to come here and get a driver's certificate, we were a gateway to the rest of the country,'' Ketron said.
State employees and contractors were convicted of taking money to improperly issue driving certificates to immigrants while federal investigations exposed black-market shuttles carrying South and Central American immigrants from out of state to get the driving documents.
The Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police supported the certificate program when it was introduced although it has not taken a position on the program's suspension, said executive director Maggi McLean Duncan.
''We want our streets to be as safe as possible,'' she said. But, she added, there were some unforeseen bugs in the program that need to be worked out.
Why are they in Limbo? Why aren't they kicked out of the country?
Immigrants who come here legally are allowed to get a driver's license and to drive in this country.
This fear can be completely eliminated by their going back to Mexico and applying for legal immigration.
They can just get an international drivers license, whats the big deal? If any of us were to visit a foreign country we could drive there by applying for such a license, because we would not have right to petition the tax payers of another country to pay for and issue us documents!
These drivers license sob stories are absurd!
Why doesn't the press ever report Since 1949, when the United Nations sanctioned its use, the International Driver's License (IDL) has allowed International Travelers to drive freely throughout the world., why? because driving with a license is not the issue, they have other agendas , such as forcing the tax payers of this country into socialism to pay for the rest of the worlds ills.
''The fear they live with is inhuman,'' Gonzalez said."
Easy answer to that "inhumane" condition, GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!
They've had several years to save up money, and experienced what it is like to live in a country that is nearly free of corruption.
They should take their experience home and reform wherever they came from.
Of course, that is probably just too much work for these "Hard Working Immigrants".
So much easier to mooch off the generosity and sacrifice of past generations of Americans.
ZERO sympathy from this old crank. If they "don't want to live in fear" then kindly (or not) get the "F" out!
Am I in the Twilight Zone? Reality is just not checking out here.
"Illegal immigrants who have lost the ability to drive legally already were worried, he said, but the recent announcement of a pending program that would let sheriff's deputies in Nashville check the immigration status of every person who is booked at the county jail has created a real panic."
They can either go back to where they came from or they can go to hell. They can take their pick.
definitely Twilight Zone ping
You could return to your legal home and quit being a parasite on the American taxpayer.
Allowing Mexico to export it's poverty to the US aand benefit from the remittances sent home only allows the continued existence of the narco-kleptocracy that is our southern neighbor.
Why, with it's abundance of resources and a willing work force, is mexico a third world country while the US and Canada have prospered?
This whole thing about them living in fear is a crock. I see no evidence of that, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. Besides, if this is such a scarey place to live, I have some advice to them. GO HOME.
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