Senate backs driving cards
February 26, 2008
Illegal immigrants who have driving privilege cards in Utah can continue to drive at least one more year.
A Senate committee Tuesday blocked an attempt by Republican Rep. Glenn Donnelson to repeal the controversial cards.
Using an individual tax identification number issued by mail from the IRS, people in the country illegally can obtain driving privilege cards in Utah. Donnelson, a resident of North Ogden, estimates that about 41,000 of the roughly 100,000 illegal immigrants in the state who are adults have obtained cards.
But Donnelson claims the program could promote terrorism because sufficient identification documents are not required to obtain driving privilege cards.
"Are they terrorists? Are they criminals? We don’t know. There is nothing verifying that," Donnelson told members of the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.
In a testy exchange Sen. Scott McCoy, R-Salt Lake City, disagreed with the representative.
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"You can only use it to drive," McCoy told Donnelson, adding that the cards cannot be used to enter the United States. "Quite frankly, I just don’t see the connection. Because I don’t see what advantage having a driving privilege card would give to help facilitate a terrorist action in the United States. You just told me the only thing they can do with a driving privilege card is drive around town."
He insists the cards provide law enforcement more ways to identify who is in the state illegally. McCoy helped defeat HB 239 in a 3-2 vote.
Some Latinos in Park City are afraid that racial profiling by the police would increase if driving privilege cards are revoked.
Jose Mederos works construction in Park City and said an officer pulled him over and immediately asked if there were drugs or guns in his car.
"Because I am Mexican," said the 23-year-old, who is a legal resident of the United States.
The cards help ensure that immigrants know how to drive and buy insurance, Mederos said.
But many illegal immigrants have not obtained driving cards, Donnelson said.
"If there are 100,000 here and only 41,000 driving privilege cards, where are the other 60,000?" Donnelson asked. "I’m not sure they are taking UTA or TRAX. They are probably out there driving and we have no record of that."
Utah is one of a handful of states that includes New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, New York and Hawaii, which allow illegal immigrants to drive.
Offering the cards encourages immigrants to move from states like Arizona that have cracked down on illegals, Donnelson said.
"Twenty percent are looking to move from Arizona because of the tough laws in Arizona," he said
"That means 80,000 of them coming to communities along the Wasatch Front."
Utah was the first state to provide driving privilege cards, said Tony Yapias, the state’s former director of Hispanic affairs.
A state audit estimates that more than 70 percent of the cardholders purchased insurance for their vehicles, lawmakers say.
"How many of those dropped that after the first month when they couldn’t afford the monthly payments?" Donnelson said.
Members of the House of Representatives had voted 39-35 to repeal driving privilege cards from migrants.
Kamas dairyman David Ure, a retired state representative, was largely responsible for passage of the law that allowed illegal immigrants to drive.
Tuesday he praised rejection of the repeal claiming support for his cause came from members of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who said "be kind, be thoughtful and be considerate."
"That’s what changed the tide," Ure said. "That backed the Senate off a whole lot."