Pennsylvania has become the latest state to consider granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. House Bill 1648 was introduced in August 2013 by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). The bill is now being considered by the House Committee on Transportation.
H.B. 1648, if enacted, would make illegal aliens eligible for a Pennsylvania driver’s license. Specifically, the bill would allow applicants to provide an individual taxpayer number (ITIN) on an application for a driver’s license instead of a Social Security number (SSN) to prove identity. Also, if applicants are unable to provide an ITIN, under H.B. 1648, they can provide unspecified documents that prove name, date of birth, and place of birth. The legislation also eliminates the requirement that a non-citizen license expire on the date his or her immigration credentials or documentation expires. Under current law a SSN must be provided along with proof of lawful presence.
H.B. 1648 is bad for Pennsylvania for several reasons. First, H.B. 1648 poses national security risks. As the blue ribbon commission investigating the attacks of 9/11 clearly concluded, the ability of the terrorists to obtain government-issued identity documents facilitated their ability to plan and execute their deadly mission. Consequently, making illegal aliens eligible to obtain driver’s licenses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recklessly leaves our nation more vulnerable to terrorist attack.
Second, H.B. 1648 invites various forms of fraud associated with driver’s license application and renewal (not to mention employment, voter registration, and insurance fraud). Look at New Mexico for instance. New Mexico has provided driver’s licenses to illegal aliens for more than 10 years. During an audit conducted between August 2010 and April 2011, state investigators estimated that as many as 75 percent of foreign national license applications were phonies.
Third, H.B. 1648 does not comply with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. Unlike other states that have recently granted driving privileges to illegal aliens, H.B. 1648 would, in the words of Rep. Cohen, “allowing undocumented persons to have the same driver’s licenses as do Pennsylvania citizens.” The REAL ID Act sets minimum standards for the issuance of driver’s licenses in the states. Under this law, only state driver’s licenses and identity cards that meet minimum security requirements will be accepted by federal authorities as a valid form of identification for actions such as boarding an airplane or accessing a secure federal building.
Current Pennsylvania law meets the requirements. If HB 1648 is enacted, however, thereby removing the lawful presence requirement to obtain a Pennsylvania driver’s license, no Pennsylvania resident, including U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, will be able to use that document to board an airplane or access a secure federal building once the REAL ID Act is fully implemented by January 1, 2016.
Fourth, H.B. 1648 would harm Pennsylvania by making it easier for illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the state and drawing in more illegal aliens who desire the state-sponsored benefit. Illegal immigration is a burden to every state and city as low-wage illegal aliens and their dependents strain local services, while depressing job opportunities and wages for others. According to a FAIR study, illegal immigration is already costing Pennsylvania taxpayers $1.37 billion per year. H.B. 1648 would likely increase those costs.
Lastly, H.B. 1648 insults legal immigrants who followed the law and came here legally. Their time, money, and patience while waiting for approval by the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security would be cheapened by the passage of H.B. 1648.