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Utah and New Mexico Propose Licensing Non-Citizens

The states of Utah and New Mexico have passed new laws giving people who are not citizens of the United States access to obtaining driver’s licenses and automobile insurance coverage. These new laws have been heavily criticized during the first few months of the legislative sessions for this term in their respective states; however, it appears as if the bills will indeed be implemented after substantial changes to important components of the legislation.

The new bills in both Utah and New Mexico have been extensively altered since their inception. Despite this, the basic tenets of the bills which drew so much ire from the opposition party in both states remain intact.

The key issue in these bills is that both would allow non-citizens to apply for driver’s licenses (or, as they are called in Utah, “driver’s privilege cards”) and automobile insurance without verification of their citizenship, because both states made allowances for applicants to use either their Social Security Number (SSN) or an ITIN, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Social Security numbers are only given to those with citizenship or legal permanent residency, whereas an ITIN can be obtained by anyone legally in the country but not necessarily residents, such as long-term tourists, students, and those on other forms of visas.

Opponents of these bills have asserted that, by allowing non-citizens to use the ITIN as a form of identification to obtain driving credentials and car insurance, there are many more opportunities for illegal immigrants to apply for and receive identification and insurance, which could provide more opportunities for insurance fraud and open potential security risks.

Proponents of the bill argue the contrary, saying that by providing either form of identification verifies the person’s right to live in the country legally, even if only temporarily. Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart, the author of the original bill in Utah, has publicly stated since that he feels that “the practice of extending the privilege to be on the road to people without requiring them to first verify their citizenship makes it too easy for undocumented immigrants to live in the United States.”

Those who support the bills argue that by not restricting the ability of certain people to obtain legal driving privileges, the effect on Utah and New Mexico’s rates of uninsured drivers will greatly improve. The rate of uninsured drivers in New Mexico is approximately 29%, the highest in the United States.

If these drivers were offered a legal way to obtain credentials, they would most likely take it—whereas if they aren’t, they would continue to drive, unlicensed and uninsured, presenting greater risks to other drivers as well as driving up premium costs. Uninsured drivers are the source of thousands of dollars in extra insurance costs every year.

Utah’s rate of uninsured drivers is much smaller than that of New Mexico, making the use of a Social Security number mandatory could result in many thousands of people who already hold Utah driving privilege cards unable to purchase insurance or drive legally.


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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2011 and is filed under Auto Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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