Saturday, July 9, 2011

DPS policy now law

A controversial DPS policy is now law thanks to an amendment to the education funding bill added by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie). Back in 2008 the DPS began requiring applicants for driver's licenses to prove they were a citizen or were here legally. The passage of the bill puts to bed legal challenges to DPS' authority to check immigration status.

Beginning on September 1, 2011, everyone applying for, or renewing, a driver's license will be required to show proof of citizenship or legal status. What's so bad about that, you ask.

The implementation of this law will lead to an increase in the number of people driving on Texas roads without valid driver's licenses and insurance. Is that really the best way to safeguard the welfare of the driving public?

The Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for patrolling the state's highways and for protecting the governor and the capitol - not for being surrogate immigration agents. Whether someone is here legally or not is not the business of law enforcement officials. It is not against the law to be in Texas without the permission of the federal government. If we're going to crack down on folks who have risked their lives to come here and work, leave it up to los federales.

The Constitution makes no distinction between citizens and non-citizens when it comes to our rights under the Bill of Rights. The Equal Protection Clause makes no distinction between those who are here with the blessing of the government and those who aren't. Preventing people from obtaining driver's licenses and insurance because of their immigration status serves no purpose other than to provide Rep. Pitts with an issue he can wave in front of the wingnuts come campaign season.

See also:

"Another knee-jerk reaction," The Defense Rests (Oct. 9, 2008)
"DPS calls for drivers' license checkpoints," The Defense Rests (Nov. 12, 2008)
"Judge shoots down DPS drivers' license plan," The Defense Rests (April 10, 2009)

1 comment:

Kirk said...

It is past time for some blowback on these ridiculous laws. They affect not only the illegal alien who wants to obtain a drivers license, but everyone who applies for a drivers license.

I recently moved to Colorado, where they have had a similar law for a few years. "Verification of lawful presence" they call it. Yesterday, we took my 15-year-old daughter to get her learner's permit. We took all documents the drivers license people said they required. Problem: my daughter's birth certificate was issued by the CITY she was born in (Waco), and Colorado only accepts birth certificates issued by "states, counties, or boroughs." Didn't matter that it was an official copy with a seal. Didn't matter that we also had her original social security card. We were told we needed to obtain a new birth certificate issued by the state.

Something has to be done. We are a white family with a very anglo last name, and we have problems being issued a drivers license. What if our name had been Martinez?

In this country, there is supposed to be a presumption by the government that people are innocent of all crimes. Why shouldn't that extend to the presumption of lawful presence? And how is it our fault that the place where my child was born has birth certificates issued by the city instead of the county? Did they ever hear of equal protection? Full faith and credit?

And I thought it was solely up to the federal government to determine whether a person was "lawfully present." I'm just a humble divorce lawyer, but I'm going to be researching this issue with the aim of filing a lawsuit.