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Immigration News: IDs for Undocumented Immigrants Enable Safer Communities, Family Health Access: Report

First Posted: Nov 25, 2015 03:41 PM EST
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For the undocumented immigrant community, lacking any form of identification can limit themselves and even their U.S.-born child.

According to Silva Mathema, policy analyst for the Center for American Progress (CAP), many of the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants do not own a form of ID, even a foreign passport or birth certificate, which results in difficult circumstances. Mathema, author of the "Providing Identification to Unauthorized Immigrants" report, said lack of ID for immigrants restricts them from enrolling their child in school or getting medical care.

Noting that approximately 4.5 million U.S.-born children have at least one undocumented parent, the children are also at risk since the parent could be hesitate to apply for health benefits -- since there is no verifiable method to identify the parent and fears of potential deportation.

Mathema wrote that individuals with valid identification will provide safer communities, since people will be able to identify themselves. She added that providing immigrants with driver's licenses would ensure that every individual behind the wheel has passed their driving test and car insurance, "all of which would help make roads safer for other drivers and pedestrians," as the report noted.

While there is no federal law granting undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for a license, state and local levels of government have paved the way. So far, 12 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington), Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have approved laws to grant driver's licenses to immigrants. Other jurisdictions have passed municipal IDs, such as New York City, which has distributed more than 570,000 IDNYC cards.

"The states and localities implementing common-sense policies to solve the problem of identification are a model for the nation and other states to follow," said Mathema in a statement. "Having an ID helps people integrate into everyday life. It eases interactions with law enforcement, government officials, banks and local businesses."

"Increasing access to driver's licenses makes roads safer for everyone; enhancing trust between the immigrant community and law enforcement makes entire communities safer; and making basic services accessible to everyone brings communities together," Mathema added.

In her report, Mathema recommended that U.S. states should offer driver's licenses to all eligible individuals regardless of immigration status, while local-levels should look into municipal ID programs. Regardless of how an individual obtained their identification, Mathema also recommends states and localities to set policies prohibiting officials from questioning one's immigration status. Lastly, the CAP report calls on Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts' analysis of identification for undocumented immigrants, 37.3 percent of the undocumented immigrant population, currently living in the U.S., are living in a jurisdiction where obtaining a driver's license is or will become available.

Implementing identification laws for immigrants is not a simple plan. States and localities have to determine costs to cover the additional staffing and technology needed to issue more licenses. Further, Pew acknowledged that state or local levels of government also have had to determine how much to appropriately promote and educate about granting licenses to immigrants, in addition to determining the eligibility and documentation standards.

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