Summary of State Laws on the Issuance of Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Aliens
The final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), issued on July 22, 2004, states that “today more than 9 million people are in the United States outside the legal immigration system.” As such, the 9/11 Commission recommended that standards be set for the “issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” as “all but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of U.S. identification document, some by fraud. Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities.” The REAL ID Act of 2005 was signed into law (P.L. 109-13) on May 11, 2005 which, among other things establishes standards for the issuance of drivers’ licenses and identification cards.
Past events have prompted a series of questions and debate concerning states’ issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Proponents contend that allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses is a matter of public safety. Licensed drivers know the rules of the road and can buy insurance, thus making streets safer for everyone. Conversely, opponents argue that allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses compromises national security. Moreover, opponents contend that permitting illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses encourages such individuals to remain in the United States illegally. Thus, opponents contend that illegal immigrants should not be rewarded with such privileges. This report will briefly summarize the policy arguments related to states’ issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented or illegal aliens. In addition, this report includes a state-by-state summary of the state laws on issuing licenses to immigrants. This report will be updated as developments warrant.