Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Texas Policy Requires Proof of Immigrant Status for Driver's License

Just listen to a typical traffic report in the Houston area during rush hour and you quickly will conclude that we all want our vehicles and we are willing to sit in a standstill of other cars in exchange for the convenience and comfort. Getting a driver's license is a major rite of passage. Teenagers cross off the days on their calendars until they can have that piece of plastic that symbolizes freedom. However, if you live in Texas and you cannot prove your legal status in the country, you now will be denied a driver's license. Is this an important security measure or a piece of political pandering?

As of October 1, immigrants now must produce documentation provided by the Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Naturalization Service or Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services that verifies their legal presence in the country. The licenses given to immigrants will look different than those issued to citizens so that they are easily recognizable by police, and they will have the date that the person's admission in the United States expires.

State law requires applicants to present a social security card in order to get a driver's license. However, proponents of this new policy asserted that illegal immigrants were either presenting fake social security cards or simply signing a form indicating that they were ineligible for social security benefits and therefore did not have a card at all. The hope is that the new documentation requirement established by the Texas Department of Public Safety will close these loopholes for people in our country illegally.

Not everyone is thrilled with the policy change. Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said that, "People have to drive to get to work. You want people to get insurance. They can't get insurance if they don't have a driver's license." Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat from Houston, argues that the tactic equates to "demagoguery" by the governor during an election year.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who specialize in immigration law. If you believe you have been denied your rights based on your immigrant status, please contact one of our offices today to discuss your situation.

No comments: