10 thoughts on “The Case For Letting Illegal Immigrants Have Driving Licenses”

  1. Surely you must be joking. This has nothing to do with national security. It’s an attempt to justify another round of amnesty for illegal aliens. The government can’t even deal with the backlog of immigration cases it already has on the books and you expect them to vette 13 million illegals for drivers licenses? Even if it were possible to screen 13 million people, none of the 9/11 hijackers had criminal records.

    Providing amnesty to illegal aliens will only hurt national security because it will encourage more illegal immigration and increase the pool of illegal immigrants in which the terrorists can hide.

  2. Conventional wisdom may be right, but it isn’t always right, and the best way to decide if it is is to compare it to alternatives.

    There are always tradeoffs in evaluating public policies. The article provides a service by making reasonable points that are not frequently raised in public discussions. Whether or not the argument in favor of granting licenses is valid, I think that it’s generally better to make tradeoffs explicit than to ignore some of them because they contradict conventional wisdom. One of the better ways to decide which ideas merit consideration is to discuss all of them, even the ones that “everyone knows” are bad. I’d rather discuss a lot of apparently bad ideas than not discuss them, and by doing so increase the risk of implementing some of them unexamined.

    BTW, on your last point, I think that what the article really argues is that not allowing illegals to have licenses greatly expands the size of one of the demographic haystacks in which terrorists may hide, as a no-license policy greatly increases the odds that a given illegal driver is not a terrorist. I’m not sure that I agree that the tradeoffs of such a policy are worthwhile, but I think the idea bears consideration.

  3. Examining the alternatives is usually a good thing but not when they are so open to fisking that it becomes embarassing. One alternative that has lots of grass roots support but is always ignored by the media and the policy elites is stronger border enforcement and punishment for people who employ illegal immigrants. How about exploring those alternatives for a change?

    “not allowing illegals to have licenses greatly expands the size of one of the demographic haystacks in which terrorists may hide”

    Amnesty doesn’t reduce the haystack. It produces more hay. When the last round of amnesty passed back in the eighties, I think it included 8 million illegal aliens. Now there are 13 million. Legalizing didn’t do anything to reduce the numbers then and there’s absolutely not a scintilla of credible evidence that it would do so now.

  4. Did you read the article? It specifically addresses the narrow question of granting driving licenses to illegal aliens from a security perspective, not the broader question of amnesty. The last paragraph states it directly:

    There may be legitimate reasons for cracking down on illegal immigration, there may even be reasons to deny illegal aliens driver’s licenses, but counter-terrorism security is not one. This provision was appropriately dropped from the intelligence reform bill and it should not be resurrected in the 109th Congress.

    As for “stronger border enforcement and punishment for people who employ illegal immigrants,” these issues have been discussed exhaustively in the press for years. Remember Simpson-Mazzoli? That was almost 20 years ago. Obviously it didn’t solve the problem, so there must be other issues to consider than the ones that you raise.

  5. I’m having a tough time following the logic of this argument. It seems to say:

    A) Illegal immigration should remain illegal. However, if you do get in, we’ll give you a drivers license.

    B) Why? Because a drivers should not be thought of as ID or proof or citizenship, only that the holder knows how to drive.

    C) Otherwise, the supply for fraudulent licenses will increase.

    So that leaves us at the starting point. If we don’t use the drivers license as ID, what do we use? A birth certificate? A national ID card? Whatever we choose, the demand for fraudulent versions of that document will increase. Agreed?

    It seems the argument is that there’s no point in producing verifiable documents because they’re just going to be counterfeited, so let’s just give up. I could make the same argument about $20 bills.

  6. I think the central points are that the set of govt policies that are helpful for enforcing immigration laws does not completely overlap the set of policies that help to find and catch terrorists, and that optimising driver-license rules to facilitate enforcement of immigration laws makes license information less useful for the purpose of catching terrorists. It’s a question of priorities. I think it’s reasonable to ask whether less-effective immigration enforcement is worth trading for more-effective detection of terrorists.

  7. I’m more interested in whether someone driving has insurance than where they came from. If they want a license they should have to show proof of insurance. If they drive without a license they should get time in the slammer like an American.

    If we want border control, make a 1/4 mile cordon sanitaire on the Mexican border, build a wall, light it and patrol it with UAV’s. Shoot at any moving infra-red signature. Do not clean the area. Force all commercial goods to be transported to the U. S. by ship. Shut down the maquilladoras. This will stop 95% of illegal immigration. I doubt anything else will. If you’re not ready to implement that plan, start thinking about what Bush is talking about.

  8. Errr… If an average eighteen year old in the US can get a fake ID, it’s probably a safe bet that an illegal immigrant of average intelligence can do the same.

    “Hey Osama! Forget about that fake ID you’ve been using! You know, the ‘George Blackfeather’ one from North Dakota! The US government is giving out LEGIT drivers licenses to illegal aliens, so you can just get a REAL drivers license in YOUR OWN NAME! Joy! No point in confusing the paper trail after you’ve successfully died in your suicide terrorist attack….”

    The “legal” ID for illegal aliens is a weird idea. Illegal aliens who had visa’s are already registered with the feds, and a legal passport w. US visa (even if expired) is good enough to get a State ID card or drivers license in most States. If the illegal resident entered the US without a passport/visa, they’re not going to line up at INS to get deported. And if they used fake ID to enter the country, then they’ll just use the same documents to get US ID in the same name. Additionally, it should be obvious that ‘terrorists’ aren’t going to check the “check here if you’re a terrorist” box on the application form!

    A better idea would be a requirement that all fifty Secretary of States be required to issue State IDs (drivers licenses or etc) on a foreign passport or documents in their own category, like a check if one wears glasses. This at least would split off some of the work back onto the States.

  9. All of these schemes are fundamentally flawed in various ways. The important questions are 1) What is the most important task to accomplish? and 2) Which of these flawed schemes is least bad for that purpose?

  10. Establishing identity is one of those problems that most people consider trivial because they’ve never really had to do it.

    In the modern world, we establish identity by using an interlocking series of documents. It is that trail that creates the identity, not the final document in the trail (like a drivers license). Its a kind of “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” sort of thing.

    The problem with providing drivers licenses or any other type of potential ID to illegal aliens is that, by there very nature illegals have no identity trail. Bush’s plan to essentially have the Mexican government provide the trail is better but the phrase “Mexican Bureaucracy ” does not engender confidence. We could easily wind of with a large population of people we think we have ID’d but actually haven’t.

    I don’t think there really is a good solution to this problem.

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