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Debate: Drivers licenses for Illegal immigrants in the US

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Should illegal immigrants in the United States be allowed to obtain drivers licenses?

Background and context

In the United States, illegal immigration is a major problem. Sources indicate that there are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The size of the illegal immigrant population makes it difficult to adopt a policy of mass deportation due to both issues of practicality and humanitarian concern, while also making the social impact of this population quite large. The social impact is particularly relevant on United States roads, where illegal immigrants are driving without driver's licenses and without the driving instruction required in obtaining a driver's license. Many believe that, for the safety of both illegal immigrants and US citizens, that illegal immigrants should be offered driver's licenses. They also consider such a step to make sense as part of a general effort to integrate illegal immigrants into American society. Opponents generally contend that illegal immigrants should not be given any document that legitimizes their presence in the United States and helps integrate them into the fabric of society. Rather, they argue that illegal immigrants should be deported and attempt to apply to enter the country legally. This issue came to a head in New York City in 2007 when city Mayor Elliot Spitzer proposed that illegal immigrants be offered driver's licenses, primarily based on the argument of increasing road safety. While his proposal failed to achieved the necessary political support, it constitutes a significant example for other cities and states that continue to weigh the merits of the idea.

For greater background on illegal immigration in the United States, see Wikipedia: Illegal immigration in the United States

Contents

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Social: Are there broad social reasons for providing illegals with driver's licenses?

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Yes

  • Illegal immigrants in America should be integrated into society - Illegal immigrants that are currently residing in America are active members of American society. They typically lead productive and law-abiding lives consistent with American ideals. Their only illegal action was entering the United States. As such, efforts should be made to integrate them into American society, and providing them the option of obtaining driver's licenses is a good way of achieving this.
  • It is not feasible to deport millions of illegal immigrants from the United States It is not possible to deport between 10 and 12 million illegal immigrants. Therefore, integration is the best option. Offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses is in line with this course of action.
  • Deporting millions of illegal immigrants from America would result in a humanitarian crisis Sending millions of illegal immigrants back to their home countries would result in a humanitarian crisis, particularly in Mexico. The best response, therefore, is to better integrate them into the fabric of society. Providing them with driver's licenses fits into this moral course of action.


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No

  • Illegal immigrants should not be integrated into American society, but rather deported. The primary basis for this argument is that illegal immigrants are, inherently, in the United States illegally. On a purely legal basis, they should not be afforded legal documentation such as a driver's license, and should be deported. Beyond the legality, many argue that the presence of illegal immigrants is harmful economically and socially to lawful citizens, providing additional cause to moving away from integration and such measures as providing illegal immigrants with driver's licenses.
  • Driver's licenses would have to be offered to ALL illegal immigrants (not just Mexican) - This debate often assumes that driver's licenses would simply be offered to illegal Mexican immigrants, with the claim that the US economy is dependent on these "productive" illegal immigrants. But, what about other groups of illegal immigrants that may be "less desirable"? What about an illegal immigrant from, for example, Iran? The problem is that the proposition tends to base its arguments off of only one particular group of illegal immigrants (Mexican immigrants constituted around 57% of the illegal immigrant population in 2007[1]), while seemingly denying the costs of accepting other groups of illegal immigrants into this program.
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Legality: Is there a legal basis for the proposition?

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Yes

  • Illegal immigrants enjoy equal protection under US law - The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1868 to secure rights for slaves, holds that states must provide equal protection under the law to all persons (not only to citizens) within their jurisdictions. Section 1 of the fourteenth amendment holds, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The case Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), saw the Supreme Court of the United States strike down a state statute denying funding for education to children who were illegal immigrants. It established that regardless of legal status, illegal immigrants are still 'persons' and thus protected as such under some provisions the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, notably the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This precedent has been interpreted to mean that illegal immigrants should also enjoy equal protection in regard to access to driver's licenses.


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No

  • Offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses would violate the rule of law. Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants provides legal status to individuals that have knowingly broken US laws. The Immigration and Nationality Act clearly states that illegal aliens should be deported. These long-standing laws must be upheld. Offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses clearly violates these laws and the impression that the United States is capable of enforcing them. It also undermines the notion of rewarding law abiding citizens and punishing those that break the law. Why should illegal immigrants be allowed to get away with their illegal acts. US citizens (not illegal aliens) are not afforded this luxury of forgiveness in the face of the law. Therefore, the proposition is an unwarranted and immoral concession that undermines the consistency of US law.


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Road safety: Will offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses make American roads safer?

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Yes


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No

  • Deporting illegal immigrants will make roads safe from them. Another obvious argument is that, if we are to make the roads safer from illegal immigrants who do not have drivers license then deportation of these immigrants can also serve as a solution to the problem


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National security: Will the proposition improve or harm national security?

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Yes

  • It is already very easy for illegals to fake their identity; offering them driver's licenses won't change much. - Driver's licenses are not the end-all-be-all of identity in the United States. Illegal immigrants are effectively faking passports, driver's licenses, and other items of identification. Therefore, the provision of driver's licenses won't be too dramatic of a shift.



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No

  • Offering illegal immigrants drivers licenses is a national security threat - Many terrorists, including 9/11 terrorists, obtained driver's licenses as a means to perform their acts of terrorism. They used driver's licenses to move more freely around the United States, and to get onto the airplanes that were used in the 9/11 attacks. Driver's licenses, therefore, are a primary tool for terrorists or any individual that may pose a national security threat of some kind. While illegal immigrants should not generally be viewed as terrorists or national security threats, the poor background information on them, that they are foreign in origin, and that they illegally crossed a national boundary may make them more likely terrorists suspects than other groups. This should lead America to the conclusion that offering illegal immigrants driver's licenses poses national security risks.



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Stemming immigration: Will the proposition help decrease illegal immigration to the US?

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Yes


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No

  • It would be wrong to provide illegal aliens an incentive to obtain driver's licenses. Any incentive offered to illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses risks being viewed as a reward or concession for illegal behavior. This is wrong.
  • Offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants will incentivize more illegal immigration - A big part of solving the illegal immigration problem is creating dis-incentives for entering the United States. This is one of the reasons why pressure is being put on employers to stop hiring illegal aliens. Yet, driver's licenses for illegal aliens will provide a significant spur to future illegal immigration. It will be a signal that the United States is willing to accept, accommodate, and integrate illegal aliens. In this way, the proposition is detrimental to the effort to reduce illegal immigration. Given the fact that the United States suffers from the largest illegal immigration problem in the world, this is a major problem with offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in the United States.
  • America is capable of enforcing immigration law - If America really wanted to uncover and deport illegal immigrants it could. It is generally capable of enforcing immigration laws, making it wrong to view illegal immigrant driver's licenses as the only remaining alternative.



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Economics: Will the proposition benefit the US economy?

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Yes

  • Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants will generally lower insurance costs - Because illegal immigrant drivers are a greater risk on the road, and because they do not have insurance, they make it necessary for insurance companies to raise rates for everyone. If illegal aliens had driver's licenses, obtained the necessary driving instruction, and also qualified for insurance, then the general risk on roads would be dramatically reduced, along with insurance costs for everyone.
  • Deporting illegal immigrants would cripple the US economy - Some argue that illegal immigrants should be deported, rather than provided legal licenses that further integrate them into society. The problem with this approach, however, is that it would withdraw from society the substantial contributions (economic and other) being made by illegal immigrants. The costs would be prohibitively high. Therefore, efforts to integrate illegal immigrants are necessary, including providing them with driver's licenses.


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No

  • The costs of providing driver's licenses to millions of illegal immigrants would be very high. While driver's licenses for illegal immigrants may reduce general insurance costs, it will raise costs in other ways. Offering licensing to roughly 15 million illegal immigrants in the United States would entail very high governmental, administrative costs surrounding the teaching, licensing, and documenting of these additional individuals. This may negate any of the economic benefits cited in the affirmative.
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DMV employees: Would this make the job of DMV employees easier?

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Yes

  • Denying illegal immigrants driver's licenses forces DMV employees to become immigration experts. Without a driver's license to illegal immigrants scheme, it is necessary for DMV employees to know which documents they can accept as proof of lawful presence and which are faulty. This is very difficult and unreasonable to expect. Providing illegal immigrants with driver's licenses would eliminate this problem because no distinction would be necessary between legal citizens and illegal immigrants.


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No

  • DMV employees would not need to become immigration experts to determine the illegality of an immigrant - While determining illegal immigrant status may be difficult, systems have been created to enable this. One such system is called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system, where DMV employees would simply have to enter the document number and the name of the bearer into the computer and wait for an answer from state and federal government officials. This means that DMV employees would not need to become immigration experts.



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Voter fraud: Could driver's licenses to illegal immigrants avoid massive voter fraud?

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Yes

  • Some driver's license schemes would make clear possession by illegal immigrants, thus preventing voter fraud. Voter fraud is only possible if an illegal alien is able to pretend that they are legal citizens with their driver's license. A scheme that would make their status clear on driver's licenses would prevent voter fraud.


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No

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American opinion: Is American public opinion in favor and does it matter?

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Yes

  • Many US states do not require drivers to prove legal status in order to obtain a driver's license. These states include Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
  • Public opinion is irrelevant to legal/constitutional interpretations on providing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. There is a strong case that the 14th amendment of the constitution provides illegal immigrants with equal protection under the law, including in regards to the provision of driver's licenses. Such an interpretation should stand above public opinion.


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No

  • The American public strongly opposes driver's licenses for illegal immigrants - Public opposition to this proposition is a very important fact to consider. This is an issue that deeply affects the public and which is based on public values. If public opinion strongly rejects providing illegal immigrants with driver's licenses, this public discomfort with the proposition should be respected by law-makers, and licenses should not be provided.


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Pro/con resources

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Yes



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No


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Pro/con videos

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Yes

"Obama hedges on driver's licenses for illegal aliens":[2]


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No

Issuance of Driver's Licenses to Illegal Immigrants part I[3]

  • Issuance of Driver's Licenses to Illegal Immigrants part II[4]


See also

External links

YouTube Videos

"Sen. Hillary Clinton undocumented workers drivers licenses":[5]

"Uninsured No Drivers License Illegal Mexican Immigrants"[6]

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