Why I Support "Safe Driver Bill" HB 3206 as Revised
By way of background, I have been a licensed attorney for almost 23 years. Of those 23 years, I spent nine years as a state prosecutor and over 2 years as a federal prosecutor. As a federal prosecutor, I prosecuted the entire gambit of border immigration cases including misdemeanor violations of border entries (8 U.S.C. § 1325), felony re-entry of a removed aliens (8 U.S.C. § 1326), and felony alien smuggling cases (8 U.S.C. § 1324). I also prosecuted felony, border drug trafficking offenses. Some of my federal prosecutions resulted in multi-year sentences for illegal aliens. Indeed, some of my cases resulted in defendants getting a sentence of more than eight years in the federal system. And before I go any further, to be clear, I support the concept that we need to secure all of the U.S. borders prior to giving any ground on immigration reform. I also remain committed to the fact that marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin and other drugs should remain illegal to possess and distribute.
With that said, I not only support the concept of allowing aliens to have driving permits under the terms and conditions as outlined under HB 3206 as revised, but I also urge my fellow Republicans to contact the Republican members of the House and urge its’ passage as well.
Prior to this year, I had opposed similar bills mainly upon two grounds. First, I was concerned that granting such a license would somehow reward or legitimize their status as aliens and would give them an advantage over the aliens that were here and trying to gain legal status. Second, I was concerned that once licensed, the illegal alien would try to boot strap voting privileges alongside their driving privileges. Before this week, if any proposed bill came up for a discussion, either one of the above reasons was in and of itself enough of a reason for me to oppose the concept of permitting driving privileges for illegal aliens. Within the last two years an additional concern was raised. The state of New Mexico realized this the hard way. The Real ID Act of 2005 requires that states verify immigration status of all persons prior to the issuance of a driver’s license. Some states, like the state of New Mexico, chose to ignore this federal law. As a consequence, the state of New Mexico has compromised its own driver’s license system so badly that the TSA has warned the state of New Mexico that unless it changes its policy of issuing driver’s license to unverified aliens, TSA will not recognize the New Mexico driver’s license as a valid method of proving identification for travelling upon U.S. air carriers.
Last week, I read the revised version of HB 3206. As I thought about my concerns, I realized that this revised bill addressed those concerns. As I further reflected, I could not think of one good argument that should keep this bill from passing. Below are some of my thoughts that helped me change my mind about allowing aliens to have driving permits.
- The proposed bill would be both a carrot and a stick to the aliens who are not here by permission. For any alien who wishes to bring their current immigration status to being lawful, HB 3206 can be a positive incentive. The immigration process, if enforced as written by laws and regulations, requires the applicant to be in compliance with all federal, state and local laws. If an alien wants to be considered for any legally recognized status, they would have to get a driving permit that contains their picture and insurance. If they do not apply and maintain both of these, their status to becoming legal will be jeopardized. Those aliens who never intend to obtain and maintain the permit and/or insurance would not apply for the permit or insurance. The net result of that is that these particular aliens become more identifiable for removal from the U.S..
- The rule of law can be recaptured if the proposed bill is passed. Most of the audience knows of my opinion that the current immigration system is so broken that we have lost the rule of law argument. I believe that we can recapture the rule of law if we secure our border, start enforcing current immigration laws and have some real immigration reform. HB 3206 does not legitimize any alien’s status nor does it give them an advantage in the immigration process. On the contrary, HB 3206 would kick start the process by giving local police authorities to ticket non complying aliens. As noted above, if an alien is truly interested in legalizing their status, they will get permitted and insured. If an alien is not interested in legalizing their status, or, if that alien knows that they will ￼￼￼￼be denied legal status based upon their prior criminal record, they will not apply for a permit or insurance. Speaking of insurance, the insurance code and regulations may need to be clarified to make it clear that drivers who were not U.S. citizens could apply for insurance.
- The driving permit created by HB 3206 will not grant access to that alien to voting privileges. To me, this is one of the biggest issues. I am concerned that if aliens were granted a driver’s license that is not distinguishable from that of a U.S. citizen, that that alien would be more inclined to illegally participate in the voting process. Some conservatives in New Mexico are particularly concerned about the fact that the New Mexico’s drivers licenses do not distinguish between citizen and non- citizen in that many people use their driver’s license to register to vote. In Texas, that would not be an issue under the proposed bill in that the proposed bill would clearly differentiate citizens vs. non-citizen drivers. If the alien tries to register to vote with the newly issued permit, they should and would be denied the right to register. If the alien shows up to polling place and tries to cast a ballot and there is a picture identification requirement (which I support by the way), the polling place should turn them away.
- The permit identified in HB 3206 does not conflict with the Real Id Act nor does it compromise the current Texas driver’s license program. HB 3206 as revised is unique in that it would not compromise the Texas driver’s license with the requirements of the Real ID Act. HB 3206 makes it clear that there is a different permit for the alien and a driver’s license for the U.S. citizen who happens to be a Texas resident. I would like to note that the permit has some stringent standards. Among other things, the permit application requires the alien applicant to provide full identification, pass a driving test, provide proof of Texas residency and, among other things, provides a way for the alien to get insurance.
- HB 3206 applies to all aliens regardless of their status. Some from the far left have tried to make the claim that differentiating people based upon the status is unconstitutional. However, when it comes to driving, one has to realize that driving is a privilege and not a constitutional right. Further, we already have differentiated statuses exhibited on our driver’s licenses in that our youngest driver’s not only have all sorts of restrictions on their driving, but their status as that type of driver (based upon age) is clearly indicated on their license.
Texas’ economy is on fire and is growing so fast that, at times, it seems that we cannot keep up with it. The simple fact is that in some industries, we just do not have enough drivers. We cannot attract enough drivers despite the attractive pay and benefits. As a result, we have a lot of unlicensed and, thus, a lot of uninsured drivers. Both situations create an even more hazardous situation on the roads of Texas. If we can get more licensed drivers, more of them will be insured. We cannot guarantee that we will eventually lower our insurance rates; however, I believe we can guarantee that we will have more licensed drivers that at least know some semblance of driver’s safety. Passage of HB 3206 solves a lot of Texas problems. It also will help kick start resolving the national problem with our immigration issues. Therefore, I urge you to contact the members of the Calendars Committee and urge them to allow HB 3206 to go to the House floor for a full vote.