Denying immigrant driver’s licenses creates problems

Denying immigrant driver’s licenses creates problems


If Gov. Terry Branstad believed his state’s proclamation against immigrant driving licenses would solve anything, he’s sadly mistaken.

Branstad’s Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III issued a statement Dec. 27 proclaiming that Iowa will not issue driver’s licenses to as many as 5,000 young immigrants allowed to stay in Iowa under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order of the federal government. The order allows indefinite residency to those ages 31 or under brought to the U.S. as children.

Trombino’s directive says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security order not to pursue these immigrants is “prosecutorial discretion.” States are not required to comply by offering these existing residents the privilege of driving.

Politically and legally, the governor and his transportation department may be on solid ground. Ethically, economically and practically, he’s invited disaster upon these Iowa residents and their Iowa employers.

Imagine trying to be a working adult in Iowa without a driver’s license. Imagine any employer outside a metro area hiring someone reliant on public transportation.

No need to imagine the havoc unlicensed and uninsured drivers inflict on others. It happens weekly in our community. Now the governor and his transportation department effectively added thousands of more opportunities for this kind of havoc.

And he’s impoverished thousands of families who, like it or not, are permitted to stay in this country.

Iowa finds itself aligned with Arizona among the few states refusing to recognize the federal distinction. Other states, including Illinois, have pending legislation allowing these immigrants to apply for licenses. It requires a driving test in their own insured vehicle.

Illinois’ plan has bipartisan support from Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and two Republicans, former Gov. Jim Edgar and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

As we’ve noted many times on this page, our bi-state region desperately needs documented immigrants to grow our value-added ag businesses. There simply are not enough native-born workers to staff the meat processing, ethanol and other ag-production plants essential to economic growth in our region.

The president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order accommodated immigrants who arrived as children and encourages them to continue their careers and education in the U.S.

Along comes the Iowa DOT order that effectively tells 5,000 foreign-born residents of Iowa to leave the state.

The state DOT chose to make a political statement that will have zero effect on Iowans’ safety. In fact, it will create more unlicensed, uninsured motorists. It will force immigrants already working in Iowa to move elsewhere. And it will discourage future legal immigration need to fuel Iowa’s growth.

With one proclamation, the Iowa DOT solved no old problems and created three new ones.

Lose. Lose. Lose.


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