Immigrants’ driving cards safe for now
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee last week thwarted a push in the state Legislature to repeal a law that allows illegal immigrants to receive driving privilege cards to operate vehicles in Utah.
"They’re still getting insurances, they’re still able to use their ID cards for bank privileges," said Rep. David Ure, R-Kamas, during an interview Monday on Utah’s Capitol Hill. "The committee just thought it was a very foolish idea to do away with all identification."
The South Summit lawmaker, who represents Park City and portions of the Snyderville Basin, sponsored a bill passed in 1999 that allowed illegal immigrants to receive Utah driver licenses. Concerned the immigrants were using driver licenses to register to vote last year Utah became one of the few states to adopt a "driving privilege card."
"It’s not going to allow them to vote," Ure said. "They can’t get on airplanes with it, they can’t get on buses with it."
But driving privileges should only be given to people who are in the United States legally, countered Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden.
With a 6-1 vote, the House committee tabled Donnelson’s House Bill 64, which does away with all forms of state identification for illegal immigrants.
"That means it’s dead," Ure said, adding that a two-thirds vote is necessary in the House to resurrect HB 64. "It’s not going to happen [HB 64] is not going anywhere."
Ure blames the anti-illegal immigrant group, Utahns For Immigration Reform and Enforcement, for persuading Donnelson to sponsor HB 64.
"[Donnelson] is taking his marching orders from them," Ure said recently.
Park City Latino advocate Shelley Weiss praised committee members for tabling the bill.
"That’s pretty exciting," she said. "This driving privilege card is valuable because these drivers have gone out and become insured and they’re registered."
Donnelson, however, rejects Weiss’ claims that driving privilege cards allow law enforcement officers to track the driving records of illegal immigrants, adding, "however you look at it, they’re illegal Why do we give them a benefit when they’re illegal?"
Though a recent legislative audit showed roughly 75 percent of those issued driving privilege cards have obtained insurance, Donnelson said, "the 25 percent they couldn’t find. Are they in the state or out of the state?"
"I don’t know why we encourage people to break the law," Donnelson said, adding that he won’t pursue the bill this year. "[Illegal immigrants] are coming across the borders right and left and I think if we quit encouraging them to break the law they might not come as strong."
During an interview Tuesday, the representative wouldn’t say whether he would sponsor similar legislation in 2007.
"You’ll have to wait until next year," Donnelson said.
The push to repeal illegal immigrants’ driver licenses began in Utah in 2005 when a legislative audit revealed that hundreds of illegal immigrants allegedly used driver licenses to register to vote.
"We found that a large number of undocumented aliens [have] taken advantage of Utah’s relatively lenient requirements for obtaining a driver license Our concern is that Utah is being used as a portal for undocumented aliens living out of state to obtain driver licenses," a 2005 audit letter from Utah Auditor General John M. Schaff states.
In response, last year state Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, sponsored Senate Bill 227, which created driving privilege cards as an alternative to driver licenses for illegal immigrants. The cards can’t be used as government identification.
"What we passed last year is working," Ure said, adding that no politicking was necessary on his part to stop Donnelson’s bill. "The committee did this by themselves."
Weiss points to the recent legislative audit that shows 75 percent of the cardholders are insured.
"I really hope that people are seeing the public safety aspect of it," she said, adding, "we need to know who’s driving."
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Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson has decried what she called a lenient sentence in a child sex abuse case in which a 20-year-old reportedly attempted to impregnate a 12-year-old. The perpetrator was sentenced to 20 days in jail and 10 years of probation.