Texas Legislature 2013 - House State Affairs Committee Passes Bill to Issue Driver's Permit to Undocumented Immigrants
Under the outstanding leadership of State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) and with help from Texas State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), Texas roadways are one step closer to being made safer as the committee voted a committee substitute version of the "Safe Driver Bill", HB 3206 out of committee. With the cooperation of the bill's author, Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), Sen. Williams and Chairman Cook redrafted the bill to satisfy many of the concerns of Republicans in the initial bill. The bill will allow the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to issue a driving permit (not a driver's license) to undocumented immigrants and others who cannot prove their legal immigration status.
The bill received Republican support after the substitute bill was laid out, from Chairman Cook and Representatives Patricia Harless (R-Spring) and Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth). The only no vote was from former House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland). All five Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
The revised bill follows Republican principles of following the rule of law and creating a safer community for all people in Texas. It also takes a significant step forward in obtaining real identification, including fingerprints, of people living and driving in Texas who are not currently documented. It puts restrictions and responsibilities not currently in place on undocumented immigrants and will make the roads safer and will possibly help clear criminal investigations now and in the future. One of the chief complaints many conservatives have about illegal immigrants is they have no identification so they can commit a crime and "disappear into the night" with a change of identity. With this bill, that would no longer be true.
The State of Texas is not responsible for immigration policies. It is, however responsible for public safety. Opposing this bill means you are in favor of continuing to not only allow, but force undocumented, untested, unidentified and uninsured drivers to continue driving on the streets of Texas leading to more hit and run accidents, more dangerous police chases and higher uninsured motorist rates on your car insurance.
Currently many people who have been raised almost their entire lives in Texas, educated in our public schools and universites, (the so-called "dreamers") are not able to obtain a way to legally drive and purchase insurance. How long are we going to "punish children for the sins of their parents"? There are also many cases where legal residents or even U.S. citizens are unable to prove their documentation and are suddenly unable to renew their driver's license that have been using for years, or even decades.
During testimony on the bill DPS Director, Steve McCraw, spoke about the bill. As director he officially took a neutral position on the bill. McCraw was asked by the committee if the bill would in any way be a detriment or possibly be an enhancement to state security. McCraw replied it would not be a detriment and would "perhaps be an enhancement."
"Specifically," McCraw said, "provisions of the law requires a 10-print fingerprint base check, which is electronic, and checks the FBI's database in West Virginia, and upon doing that would be able to determine if the individual that applied for the license was in fact a wanted criminal, a criminal alien, or involved in an unknown crime, or put in this way, involved in a crime that the subject had not been identified through…So from a public safety standpoint, when the department focuses on chronic offenders, it would be a valued added to all law enforcement to be able to so."
McCraw went on to verify the facts about the bill. Those being:
- The permit would look signicantly different from a drivers license and could not be used for voting purposes.
- The pemit would not be in compliance with the "Real ID" act for federal identification and therefore could not be used for airline travel.
- The bill requires a criminal background check that includes a ten finger fingerprint check.
- The bill would allow the undocumented immigrants to obtain required liability insurance.
- McCraw confirmed that law enforcement can verify the current status of liability insurance during a traffic stop.
Austin Police Chief, Art Acevedo, testified earlier in support of the bill. Arcevedo called the bill a "win-win". He continued, "It's a win for the rest of Texas, it's a win for the people who are living here that probably weren't going anywhere any time soon."
Acevedo testified, "I get the phone calls from our constituents who are being hit by individuals, and when you go to exchange information, there's no ID, there's no drivers license, there's no insurance, and consequently, the rest of Texans get stuck with the bill, and ultimately all of us as consumers get stuck with the bill."
Acevedo explained this bill would be a plus for law enforcement and could clear some unsolved crimes and other crimes in the future. "If we can get ten fingerprints," he said, "a picture to go with this individual, from the investigative standpoint, it would go a long way to be able to investigate the crimes that occur involving vehicles, the crimes that occur involving traffic crimes, and more importantly, it would go toward helping us investigate all crime because we now have a picture, we have fingerprints and something to go with when we find prints in a crime scene. "
Senator Williams said he would probably favor the permit approach so that drivers could be on the road legally and with liability protection.
Despite some loud opposition from a small number of people who clearly have not read, nor do they understand the benefits of this bill, the Republicans on the committee were able to vote in favor of the bill and caused it to pass in the committee.
Representative Jessica Farrar, whom I rarely agree with, spoke in support of the bill stating "I make this argument all the time. If we could provide these folks drivers licenses, it does a couple of things. In addition to protecting the rest of the public avoiding being hit by someone that lacks insurance..."
Farrar continued, "...from a security standpoint, when you go to see the DPS, to get [this] driver's permit, you get three things. One is their address, and of course someone could lie about that, but there's a good chance you have an accurate address or a possibility of one. Two, you get a picture of them. Three, most importantly, you get their fingerprints, and so if we're really interested in knowing who is in our borders, this is a really good measure and good step toward doing that."
From here, the bill moves on to the Calendars Committee, chaired by Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), where it can be scheduled for a vote on the floor of the entire House.
This bill is good for Texas and our country as it takes a step to make the roadways safer and provide a national security improvement by identifying undocumented people in this state. Please call your state representative and ask them for a floor vote on HB 3206.