Utah Driver Privilege Cards for Illegal Immigrants

Illegal Immigration was already a hot issue in this year’s election, and the recent protests by illegal immigrants nation wide have only acted as a billow on the already hot forge.

On April 2nd, a staff writer at the Denver Post named Michael Riley published an interesting article entitled Utah’s embrace: no documents, no problem. In it he says that despite being the most Republican state in the union, Utah “may be the closest thing these days to an immigrant paradise.” (You should go read it before it goes into the archives and ceases to be freely available)

To refresh your memory, in my previous post about my conversations with State Representative Jim Ferrin and his opponent Steve Sandstrom… Ferrin defended the Driver Privilege Cards Utah grants to illegals by saying that they require illegal immigrants to learn our traffic laws and take a driving test, and that they permit them to buy Auto Insurance (a point he re-emphasized in a letter to delegates this week). Sandstrom countered that he does not believe that illegals actually buy insurance, even if they can, and that the cards only legitimize their presence in the state. I told him that some statistics that show that illegals with cards don’t actually buy auto insurance would help his case.

Well, the article cited above has this interesting fact:

A legislative audit performed this year showed that 75 percent of the 25,000 people holding driver’s privilege cards in Utah had insurance, a rate only 6 percent below the average for all drivers.

So it looks like Sandstrom’s point doesn’t hold.

However, Jim Ferrin emphasized that the Driver Privilege Cards can only be used to drive and obtain auto insurance. Yet the article says that:

The result is an atmosphere in which illegal immigrants say they both have access to key services and feel welcome. The driver’s cards allow them to get auto insurance and are widely accepted by local banks for loans and mortgages.

Zions Bank, one of the state’s largest, has begun opening immigrant-oriented branches called Su Banco.

So, contrary to Ferrin’s assertion, according to the article, Utah banks often accept the cards for account and loan application, as well as for mortgages. That is certainly granting a significant benefit beyond mere driving and auto insurance!

This also seems to support Steve Sandstrom’s point about legitimizing illegal presence in the state.

I intend to email Jim and ask him about the cards and banking.

The article also cites unnamed “experts” who claim that Utah’s permissiveness toward illegal immigrants is rooted in LDS belief that ties the immigrants to the lamanites in the Book of Mormon, and thus to God’s chosen people. In all my time discussing illegal immigration with people here in Utah, I have only heard this mentioned once, and it was by a state politician in the last few weeks. If republican politicians in Utah do often use LDS views to justify looking the other way when it comes to illegals, I do not think that it is representative of the majority of their constituents, since I have never heard it expressed by anyone else before.

Do you think that the common LDS view of Mexicans as Lamanites makes Latter-day Saints more willing to tolerate illegal immigration? Please post your comments.

How do you feel about the Driver Privilege Cards? Are they a necessary evil until the national government can get its act together? Or do they simply exacerbate the problem?

UPDATE: Representative Ferrin has kindly, and promptly responded to my email:

Hi Jonathan – thanks for the email. The statute specifies that the DPC is not “valid for identification” and further expressly prohibits government entities (state, cities, hospitals, colleges, etc…) from accepting it as proof of personal identification. While it is not “valid for ID”, the statute does not expressly forbid private businesses from accepting it for their purposes. And, I understand that private organizations will choose to accept whatever form of ID they wish as they choose to transact business with whomever they wish. Without the Driver Privilege Card, these same organizations may choose (as many have
in the past) to accept a Mexican ID card (I think it is called a
“cedula” but I am uncertain of its name.) In any case, the Mexican card was shown us at the legislature as a form of ID that should be accepted for obtaining a drivers license. That idea was rejected because, of course, we have no control over that ID card. In any case, our Driver Privilege Card is not an offical state ID.

The DPC will not assure that the holder learns our laws or buys auto insurance anymore than a drivers license assures compliance. However, removing the driver license and the DPC would assure that any illegal driving in Utah is driving without auto insurance and without any minimum testing standard. This is a major problem for me. I think it would be a major problem for most Utahns. Some businesses may choose to accept the DPC as sufficient ID for them. However, these same businesses, lacking a DPC might just as easily choose to accept the “cedula”. I still believe that the negative of illegals driving around uninsured is greater than the possible negative of illegals using it as an unofficial ID at some businesses, especially when other alternatives are available.

Now, the question of specifically denying private business by statute the use of the DPC as ID is an interesting one – one that I would be willing to entertain. Or, even the question of being a bit more proscriptive as to what private businesses could not accept – like denying the “cedula” or a foreign passport, etc… Maybe even a prescriptive formula might serve – such as only a valid U.S. or Utah driver license is acceptable ID for transacting business. But, I can imagine a host of arguments on both sides of those ideas. Still, they are ideas that I would be willing to consider next year.

Sure, you can put this on your blog if you wish. You have probably noticed that I have been willing to flesh out my thoughts in some detail on every issue. I know someone will disagree with me on just about everything – whether it is immigration or school choice. That’s OK with me. I am still going to be very clear about where I stand on these matters. And, I welcome your input as well.

Thanks for your interest. – Jim

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