A House committee is considering a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to a obtain Kansas driver’s license. Members of the Fed and State committee heard testimony on the legislation, HB 2003, last week.
Kansas requires licensees to prove they are citizens of the U.S. by providing a birth certificate, U.S. passport or certificate of citizenship. Non-citizens can receive licenses by providing a permanent resident card, valid employment authorization card, or unexpired passport from their home country showing legal entry marks. They can also drive on licenses issued by their home country.
Rep. Ponka-We Victors introduced the legislation to create a limited license for people who can’t provide citizenship documentation. She said she’d been waiting years for her proposal to receive a hearing.
“Currently, there are thousands of Kansas residents that cannot prove lawful presence,” she told the committee. She said many drive daily to places like work, school and church.
“This bill would provide a legal pathway for our Kansas residents regardless of immigration status to be properly educated on our traffic laws and to be insured,” Victors said.
The legislation was written to disallow the use of the limited licenses for voting, for purchasing a firearm, or for establishing eligibility public benefits. They also can’t be used as the basis for any criminal investigations. However, Matthew Tragesser, communications specialist at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says terrorists used state-issued licenses to board airplanes and rent cars on Sept. 11.
“Our nation learned its lesson the hard way about the problem with allowing illegal aliens to have access to driver’s licenses when we discovered that the 19 terrorists on Sept. 11 were holding 63 state driver’s licenses for identification,” Tragesser said.
To date, 12 states have created limited driver’s licenses and additional states are considering similar proposals this year. Since California created limited licenses, Victors said the state has seen a decrease in hit and run accidents.
“Drivers educated on the rules of driving…contribute to the overall safety and security of all drivers on our roads,” Victors said.
Rep. John Alcala, a Topeka Democrat, said the proposal would also provide economic benefit, because undocumented immigrants would now operate vehicles that are registered and purchase fuel and pay more in sales taxes.
Victors said licensing fees would contribute to state revenue, improve economic conditions in Kansas, and bolster the state’s reputation.
“Today, I’m so happy that this is kind of a different perspective,” she said. “This is an opportunity to make change and an opportunity to change the narrative of Kansas.”
According to the American Automobile Association, undocumented immigrants are five times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than licensed drivers, Victors told the committee.
According to former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, thousands of Americans have lost their lives in accidents caused by illegal immigrants.
“Just ask Dennis Bixby who lost his daughter Amanda on a highway near Basehor a few years ago,” Kobach said. “Providing these licenses only facilitates the continued loss of American lives.”
Tragesser said the state shouldn’t be enabling illegal immigration.
“If the state of Kansas wants to prevent crashes by unlicensed drivers, the state would discourage them from driving in the first place,” Tragesser said.
Under the Kansas proposal, those who can’t prove their legal residency status would be able to use a passport from their home country or a consular identification to apply for a driver’s license.
Alex Martinez, a field organizer for the ACLU, told the committee that licenses would help drive down insurance premiums for everyone and assist police, first responders, and health care providers identify who they’re dealing with when accidents occur. However, Kobach says governments of many nations hand out consular IDs to anyone who asks.
“Anyone who thinks a consular ID ensures that the information on the driver’s license is valid has no idea what a consular ID is,” Kobach said. “…To use them as a foundation for obtaining a driver’s license is completely idiotic.”
Alcala said the legislation is a safeguard that protects everyone.
“It’s not an issue that has to do with giving someone a benefit they shouldn’t get,” he said.