Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant tells delegation he’ll visit Idaho if Congress authorizes train funding. Crapo, Simpson support return of Pioneer Route. Kummant (via Crapo): “I will make it a personal priority of mine to visit your home state and learn firsthand of the opportunities that exist in Idaho and other western states for expanded intercity passenger rail service.” Hopkins in the Times-News.
The Idaho Department of Transportation introduced a measure this week that prohibits issuing drivers licenses or identification cards to people who are not in the United States lawfully and limits the expiration date on licenses granted to some immigrants.
Lynn Rhodes, drivers license program supervisor at the Transportation Department told the House Transportation & Defense Committee that the bill would prevent licenses and IDs from being issued to legal residents for longer periods than their visas allow them to stay in the US.
“It’s just been kind of a weak spot in our legislation,” Rhodes told me after the bill was approved for printing by the committee.
While presented as a “house keeping” bill, the providing licenses to immigrant drivers is a major part of the national debate on immigration reform. Many have argued that licensing drivers regardless of immigration status gets them in the system, allows them to carry insurance and makes the roads safer.
In 2003 immigrant advocates attempted to pass a bill to provide drivers licenses to Idaho residents regardless of immigration status. Last fall New York Governor Elliot Spitzer announced a plan to relax ID requirements for New York licenses in order to ensure that all drivers would be in the system. He dropped the plan facing overwhelming opposition.
The loudest opposition has come from anti-immigrant groups and media personalities, but some in law enforcement and national security circles have argued that the drivers license, as a key identity document, should not be issued to those in the country illegally. Some police, including LA police chief William Bratton argue the licenses will make the streets safer.
Rhodes said the Idaho Transportation Department had received numerous complaints from law enforcement and from the clerks who issue licenses that the state code was confusing. State law already requires that applicants for a license who do not have a social security number must prove lawful presence in the United States.
The bill, House Bill 366, reiterates that licenses cannot be issued to drivers not lawfully present in the United States. 29 other states have written that into state law, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
The House Transportation Committee had no questions for Rhodes and Rep. Richard Wills from Glenns Ferry moved to print the bill.
Wills told me after the print hearing that the bill just makes it easier to comply with having a valid drivers license.
“They use those licenses long after their documentation has expired,” he said.
Immigrant rights groups in Idaho were not aware the Department would be introducing this bill and are currently reviewing the language. Law makers said they were not aware the bill was coming either.
Lots of information on immigrant drivers licenses is available at the National Immigration Law Center Web site.