Lawmaker wants driving privileges for illegal immigrants repealed
January 30, 2009
A state representative from Utah County has proposed legislation that would repeal all existing driving privilege cards for illegal immigrants, Dec. 31.
House Bill 137, sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Sandstrom, would also stop the issuance of more driving permits to people who are in Utah illegally.
Immigrants apply for driving privilege cards using individual tax identification numbers issued by the IRS, which do not sufficiently identify the person who is receiving the license, critics claim.
Illegal immigrants can drive legally in only a handful of states, and by offering driving privilege cards Utah attracts illegal immigrants from places with harsher immigration laws, said Alex Segura, founder of the Utah Minuteman Project.
HB 137, which was first read Thursday in the House of Representatives, would ban non-U.S. citizens who cannot get a Social Security number from legally being behind the wheel.
"I think it’s a magnet that is going to bring more people that are unauthorized to be in the country, up here to Utah, and in this hard economic time that’s the last thing we need," Segura said about the driving privilege card in a telephone interview Friday. "It’s a bad thing and we need to do away with it."
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Utah was the first state to issue driving cards to illegal immigrants, according to Latino activist Tony Yapias.
Republican Summit County Councilman David Ure was instrumental in the creation of the cards while he served Park City as a state representative.
"So if we repeal them what we’re going to do is we’re going to make all these people drive illegally," Ure said when reached Friday. "They’re not going to have insurance, so therefore when they hit somebody on the road they’re just going to take off and run."
The cards have cut the number of uninsured drivers on Utah roads, he claimed.
"It has been a way of tracking criminals, and the amount of uninsured motorists on the road has decreased by about 70 percent," Ure said.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to delay the implementation of Senate Bill 81, a sweeping set of immigration reforms that would require local officers and deputies begin enforcing federal immigration measures in Utah.
That means Summit County would have to hire more deputies, Summit County Councilwoman Sally Elliott said.
"We’d have a hard time pulling people together," Elliott said. "We can’t afford to pay for it in Summit County."
SB 81 could also require government employers register to use a system that verifies the work status of new employees. The law may mean governmental entities must verify the immigration status of people who apply for state or local benefits.
"It’d be great to get rid of it," Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson said about the law.
SB 81 passed last year but state lawmakers delayed its implementation until July 2009.
"As far as deputies actually going out and trying to enforce immigration and naturalization issues, that’s something that is better left to the federal government," said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds, who is against SB 81.
The law could impact the willingness of illegal immigrants to report crimes, Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said.
"We obviously worry about that chilling effect," Carpenter said. "[Illegal immigrants] have a right to be protected under the law just like anybody else does."