Alonzo & House Committee Hear Public Testimony on Driver’s License legislation

Dallas, TX – Today, in the House Transportation Committee, policymakers heard public testimony on a proposed legislative measure by Texas State Representative Roberto R. Alonzo of Dallas which would allow undocumented immigrants an opportunity to obtain a driver’s license provided they can provide verifiable documents and other identification as proof of their identity that is acceptable to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). House Bill 256 would amend the Transportation Code by instructing the DPS to accept certain foreign identity documents as proof of identity, provided the foreign government is willing to establish reasonable mechanisms by which the department can verify the identity document, and provided it complies with federal law.

“I trust that HB 256 will go a long way in addressing some key issues that impact the lives of those Texans that travel our roads and highways daily. By offering alternative means and by requiring multiple verifiable identification documents that individuals can use to obtain licenses, including passports and matricula consular cards, we will ensure that more residents know about the rules and regulations about our highways. Most importantly, if they have to study to take the required driving test, they will be more knowledgeable about our driving laws, and all citizens in general will be in a safer environment. And in a nutshell, it is a win-win situation for Texas because the more licensed and knowledgeable drivers we have, the greater the chances that they be able to acquire the proper insurance coverage required by law for their vehicles. And finally, by allowing DPS to accept certain alternative foreign identity documents as proof of identity, provided that the foreign government is willing to establish reasonable mechanisms by which the department can verify the identity document, the better the chances that less people will continue to live in a shadow and use fraudulent documents,” stated Rep. Alonzo.

Under current law, all applications for a Texas driver’s license must state the applicant’s full name, and place and date of birth, and must be verified by presentation of proof of identity satisfactory to DPS. Since 1998, DPS has progressively restricted the list of acceptable documents to prove identity.

Apart from Canadian applicants, many applicants whose proof of identity is an identity document issued by a foreign government are now excluded from obtaining a driver’s license. Nevertheless, like their Canadian counterparts, they are willing and able to prove their identity through foreign identity documents, and prepared to subject themselves to the rules and regulations governing operation of a motor vehicle. The exclusion of these individuals from access to a driver’ s license is viewed by many as a threat to public safety, creating conditions that encourage unlicensed, unregistered drivers, drivers with improper vehicle insurance, and an environment propitious for fraud and corruption. DPS enforcement of the restrictive rules has led to complaints of lack of access and of excessive scrutiny of documentation, raising privacy and anti-discrimination concerns in addition to denial of access. The lack of access to a Texas driver’s license undermines public trust and cooperation with local law enforcement, and makes those affected more vulnerable to becoming victims of crime. DPS has also been criticized for its willingness to work with the Canadian government but not with other governments to satisfy verification concerns of foreign identity documents. This legislation resolves these contradictions by instructing DPS to accept foreign identity documents that contain the photo, full name, and date of birth of the applicant, provided the issuing government is willing to verify the document upon request of DPS.

“All in all, I think that HB 256 would put all those residents in Texas on a level playing field with their Canadian counterparts living in this state when it comes to obtaining their driver’s licenses, learning about our highway driving laws, and becoming safer and more responsible drivers, by obtaining the required insurance coverage that will cut down on the increased costs caused as a result of uninsured drivers and property damage because of the lack of insurance,” concluded Rep. Alonzo.