Driver Licenses and Auto Insurance Are Sensible Steps for Undocumented Workers

In Illinois, Immigration on November 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm


Illinois is considering allowing special purple-colored “not for identification” driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. [1]   This is a common sense idea.

“Unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, resulting in $660 million in damage, according to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition. Unlicensed immigrant drivers cost $64 million in damage claims alone.  The Safety Coalition said on its website that since New Mexico made the change in 2003, the rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent.

The measure would expand to undocumented immigrants Illinois’ existing temporary visitor driver’s license, used by legal immigrants. The licenses are “visually distinct” from ordinary licenses, with a purple background and the words “not valid for identification” on the front.” [1]

Undocumented workers are a fact of life in the USA.  Some get fake driver’s licenses or other documents, anyway.  For that matter, some teenaged Anglo kids obtain fake driver’s licenses to purchase beer.  Estimates range but somewhere around 11 million [2] of the nation’s 330 million people (about 3% of the population) is an undocumented person.  Be assured: some of the people who pick your fruits and vegetables, mow your lawn, clean your hotel rooms, wash dishes at your favorite restaurant, landscape your office building, and watch your kids at day care are here illegally.

Given that they’re here and driving anyway, doesn’t it make sense to have them educated about the rules of the road and road-tested for a license?  Isn’t auto insurance a good idea?   It is reminiscent of contraception: you probably don’t want your 16-year old daughter sexually active, but if she has a boyfriend and is active, anyway, would you prefer she use condoms to protect against potential diseases and pregnancy?  Or would you put your head in the sand and wish for the best?

The claim is made that offering a license is rewarding people who break the law.  If it protects the rest of the country by insuring them, the reward is as much for the populace as large. 

Also, in the cases of some young people, they broke no law.  If you were an illegal immigrant child, say age 12, when brought to the US by your parents, you did not commit a crime.  Western jurisprudence has always held that children cannot be liable for the actions of their parents.

It behooves us to take into account the fact many people commit small crimes.  Many of us violate traffic laws every day.  Is working here without the proper papers a major crime?  I would say no, it is not a big deal.  In fact, it’s really in the realm of “victimless crimes,” which is why it happens.  If an apple orchard in Washington state hires an illegal worker to pick the apples you eat, who is harmed?  No one else wanted that job and I mean that literally.

Growers mostly blame rising tensions around illegal immigration that have spooked migrant farm workers, the majority of whom are here illegally, while worker advocates say there’d be no shortage if growers were willing to pay workers more.

 “Truth be told, we’ve always had a labor shortage in this state; 75 percent of these workers aren’t authorized to be here,” said Dan Fazio, director of the Washington Farm Labor Association.  From Wenatchee to Wapato, in orchards up the Okanogan Valley and across the Yakima Valley, apple trees hang heavy with still-ripening fruit.   At the entrances of a few farms across the region are variations of a sign: “Necesitos Piscadores” — pickers wanted.  [3] 

Labor shortages are a fact of life in the Dakotas.  I don’t buy that Americans are being denied these jobs.  If you are unemployed, are you moving to North Dakota?

When it comes to labor shortages on dairy farms, owners have few options to find the workers they need. Unlike vegetable and fruit growers, dairy farmers have no federal program they can utilize to solicit immigrant labor. If they can’t find domestic labor, their work is likely to go undone.

Dairy farmers don’t talk openly about their labor dilemma for fear of drawing unwanted attention from immigration officials in their region.

One organization, Rural Migration News (RMN), regularly summarizes and analyzes the most important migration-related issues affecting immigrant farm workers in California and the United States. Their efforts are supported by the Rosenberg, Giannini and Farm Foundations.  RMN reported in October 2011 that some Wisconsin dairy farmers believe E-Verify would “kill the dairy industry in Wisconsin.” John Rosenow of Wisconsin’s Rosenholm-Wolfe Dairy commented that, “60 percent of the milk that’s harvested is harvested by immigrants, and the vast majority are probably undocumented.” [4]

You benefit from lower apple prices.  Some argument illegal immigrants create a heavy burden with costs but the fact is that working age adults come, not elderly people who need significant medical care.  Anyone who lives here, regardless of immigration status , is contributing to the local economy by buying gasoline for their car, buying groceries and clothing, paying rent, purchasing other goods and services.

Who are the illegals?  Perhaps one million of America’s undocumented aliens are from Asia. [5]  I knew an Irishman who overstayed his student Visa and stayed to marry an American.  Any rational discussion of illegal immigrants must consider those from the Ukraine, Philippines, Poland and other places who overstay tourist or student Visas.

In recent years it is estimated that about half of all illegal aliens in the United States enter through the US-Mexico Southern sector. Among those who ‘enter without inspection’, the great majority are Mexicans and Central Americans (Gonzalez Baker et al., 1998). The other half is ‘visa over stayer’. They typically fly into US international airports with proper documents and overstay their permits, This is an extremely heterogeneous population. Most U.S. citizens would find it surprising that today Canadians constitute an important group of illegal immigrants in the USA.” [6] According to Pew, just 58% of illegal aliens are from Mexico. [2]

If you’re a Republican and still disagree, you may wish to reconsider in light of the politics.  Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election solely on Latino votes, which went 71% for Obama. [7]  Asian-Americans, despite being America’s wealthiest ethnic category, voted even more strongly for Obama.  Many middle-class and upper class Asian-Americans and Latinos voted against their economic interests and perceived unfriendliness on immigration.  The Latino voting population will double in by 2030. [8]

If the GOP wants to be more than just a debate club, it would behoove the party to focus on more important conservative issues, anyway, like entitlement spending, taxes and the role of government in health care.  Trying to stop a few percent of the population from obtaining driver’s licenses and auto insurance is a fool’s errand.



[3]    See also






Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.

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