The Texas Legislature is taking up a potentially controversial solution to a vexing problem - illegal immigrant drivers on Texas roads. House Bill 3206, proposed by State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), would allow illegal immigrants to get a driver's permit. Supporters say the bill is necessary due to the unintended consequences of a 2011 law that requires Texans to prove citizenship in order to renew their driver's license. That has resulted in thousands of undocumented people on state roads. "There's at least two million people driving on our roads, to whom we sold trucks and cars, who we no longer will even allow to take a test, so they are unlicensed and uninsured," says Norman Adams with the group Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy.
Adams and his group support HB 3206, along with groups like the Texas Association of Business and the Greater Houston Partnership, plus lawmakers in both parties. In fact, State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) helped draft the latest version of the bill. Adams tells KTRH the legislation makes sense from a public safety standpoint. "In Texas, we cannot pass and adopt our own guest worker program," he says. "But we can require people that are here, regardless of why they're here, to have a driving permit." In order to get the permit, people would have to be fingerprinted, undergo a criminal background check, and prove state residency.
While some Republicans are backing the bill, others have opposed it on the grounds that it too closely resembles a state benefit for lawbreakers. Adams argues the opposite. "It's not a driver's license, it's a driver's permit certificate," he says. "It cannot be used for federal ID purposes, and you can't vote fraudulently with it." In fact, supporters say the bill isn't about immigration. "It's a law enforcement bill," says Adams. "And virtually every law enforcement agency in the state is supporting it, the Department of Public Safety thinks it's a good idea." So far, the bill has only cleared a House committee.