Bill providing driver's licenses to undocumented residents advances to Senate floor
A bill that would allow Idaho’s undocumented immigrants to apply for restricted driver’s licenses is heading to the Senate floor - but it's not being endorsed by the committee which sent it there.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie (R-McCammon), would allow any Idaho resident 16 or older to obtain a restricted license with only proof of identity and a passing score on the state driving exam. Acceptable Identification could be a birth certificate or a foreign-issued identification card.
“Undocumented residents are in our society; they’re in our economy, our markets and what may be most appropriate to today’s discussion, on our roads,” Guthrie said in opening remarks to the committee. He placed the responsibility for immigration control and border security at the feet of the federal government.
“The feds have failed in this regard and they have failed miserably,” he said.
Restricted IDs would be issued in a vertical orientation, like those currently issued to anyone under 21, and would not be allowed as acceptable identification for firearms purchases or airport security.
The proposal received mixed testimony in a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday.
“I’m talking about the fear of being deported for taking a sick relative to the hospital or the fear of being deported for taking children to school,” said Stephanie Gonzalez Tena, a University of Idaho student.
The Idaho Dairymen’s Association and the Idaho Farm Bureau also support the effort, saying it would make the state’s roads safer by increasing the percentage of insured drivers. Local organizer Eric Medina presented the committee with a petition containing more than 8,000 signatures in favor of the bill.
But sheriffs still oppose it, worrying it’ll make it difficult for them to enforce immigration laws and could even incentivize illegal immigration into Idaho.
The committee voted to send the bill to the floor, but without a recommendation. That means it's not advocating for the bill to pass.
Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) made that motion, noting her vote on the Senate floor might not match her vote to pass the legislation out of committee.
“We might need the wisdom of the whole body as we debate and deliberate this,” she said.
Two years ago, a similar driver’s license bill failed to make it out of committee.