Immigrant Licenses
8:17 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Legislature considers two-tier driver's license system

A two-tier driver's license system is getting traction in the legislature. This is how it would work: applicants who provide a valid social security number would get a regular license. Drivers who can't prove they are in this country legally would get an alternative version.

Mary Margaret Haugen is a Democrat and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. She's waded into a heated debate over illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses.

Haugen abruptly adjourned a recent legislative hearing after opponents interrupted testimony.

Critics say social security or citizenship checks will lead to more unlicensed and uninsured drivers. So Senator Haugen has proposed a compromise similar to a bipartisan proposal in the State House.

Applicants who can't prove they're in this country legally would still get a license. But it would be stamped "not valid for identification purposes."

"We heard a lot of people say they wouldn't be able to get a license so they can't get insurance. We don't want that so we provided a second tier," says Haugen.

This is similar to the system in Utah. But opponents aren't satisfied. Groups like OneAmerica warn that undocumented immigrants won't bother to get a license if the version they're issued signals they're here illegally.