Texas Democrat lawmakers want to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.
For the fourth consecutive session, Democrat State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. (Fort Worth) has filed legislation that would allow individuals who are in the country illegally to obtain a Texas driver’s license if they meet certain conditions.
House Bill 1869 is the latest in a long history of attempts to ease the documentation requirements for obtaining a driver’s license, which would extend this privilege to at least 1.6 million illegal aliens living in Texas. In a press conference, Romero claimed the bill would increase the safety of Texas roads, lower costs for businesses and drivers, and provide greater mobility for those in vulnerable situations.
Currently, 18 states offer driving permits to illegal aliens.
The press conference was hosted by the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, and several Democrat legislators attended and spoke about the merits of the bill and other priorities of their shared legislative agenda.
Founded in 2009 as a project of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, RITA is a coalition of organizations that seek to “improve the lives of immigrants and border communities in Texas.” Among others, coalition members include Border Workers United, the Texas Business Immigration Coalition, LUPE, and the ACLU of Texas.
Texas lawmakers—both Democrats and Republicans—have tried to pass legislation similar to Romero’s bill for more than two decades. However, identification requirements for obtaining a driver’s license have actually become more stringent during that period.
In 1999, the Texas Department of Public Safety—the agency responsible for issuing Texas driver’s licenses—adopted a rule limiting the types of documents acceptable for verifying an applicant’s identity, making it more difficult for illegal residents to obtain a license. Two years later, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have let applicants verify their identity by presenting a driver’s license from another country, reasoning that “Texas law and Texas Department of Public Safety rules already provide the means for foreign nationals who are in this country legally to obtain Texas drivers’ licenses.”
In 2011, the Legislature codified a Texas DPS rule requiring driver’s license applicants to show evidence of legal residency. The law was passed after MALDEF—the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—challenged the department’s removal of a loophole whereby an applicant could obtain a Texas driver’s license by presenting one from another state.
During each regular legislative session since this law went into effect, a bill has been filed that would allow individuals who don’t have the proper documentation for a driver’s license to receive a conditional permit. This bill was passed out of the House State Affairs Committee in 2013 and 2015, when the chairman was former State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), but it didn’t receive a vote of the entire House in either instance.
When current Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) was the chair of the State Affairs Committee in 2019, he gave the bill a hearing but did not pass it out of committee.
Referring to the country’s ongoing border crisis and overwhelmed immigration system, Romero remarked that “like so many folks like to say in this building, we can’t wait for Washington to act—we have to do something now.”
“We will not stop working until the undocumented community and those that cannot show proof of citizenship [have] the right to drive again,” Romero promised.
The Republican Party of Texas, meanwhile, has opposed these efforts, calling incentives like driver’s licenses a “magnet” that attracts illegals to the state, according to the party platform.
Texans for Strong Borders President Chris Russo lambasted the proposal:
Illegal aliens have no legal right to reside in the state of Texas. Why should we issue people whose very presence flaunts our sovereignty and rule of law driver’s licenses and other privileges to legitimize their presence in the United States? It would be yet another magnet to draw illegal aliens here and could assist the narco terrorist cartels in conducting their human and drug trafficking operations in broad daylight.
No sane individual would countenance such a measure under quiescent circumstances, much less in the midst of the most extreme border crisis our nation and state have ever faced.
As in previous legislative sessions, Romero’s bill will likely be referred to the State Affairs Committee, which is currently chaired by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi).
Citizens can let their legislators know what they think about this bill using the Texas Scorecard Elected Officials Directory.