In several states across the nation, it is possible to obtain a drivers license without proof of residency, giving undocumented immigrants a way to legally drive so that they may perform basic citizen-like duties like working a job and taking care of their families.
In general, it is a net good that being an undocumented immigrant does not necessarily exclude you from some citizen benefits like obtaining a drivers’ license. It ensures that not only are these residents driving safely, but that other citizens are not on the roads with unlicensed, untested drivers.
Despite some protests, these states have done a benevolent thing by allowing undocumented immigrants to legally transport themselves in the country, but that benevolence may soon turn to tragedy as Donald Trump now has the ability to use these lists of licensees as a start to the mass deportations he has promised.
In states like California, there are more than 800,000 licenses which were assigned to drivers that lack proof of residency. In Illinois, that number is more than 212,000 – those licenses are considered temporary visitor licenses. In Connecticut, the licenses are officially given to undocumented immigrants, reserved as “drive only” licenses. 9 more states as well as D.C. have similar laws on their books.
Luckily, there is currently no law on the books which would compel a state’s DMV to hand over this personal information to any federal agency. The information would likely have to be subpoenaed, and even then, the names on the lists may still be protected.
Nevertheless, the thread is very real. Donald Trump has promised to deport more than 3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and claims a no-tolerance policy concerning criminals “aliens.” Though he often goes back on his promises, we cannot forget that more than once during the election, Trump promised to remove all undocumented immigrants, praising Eisenhower’s mass deportation which left families destroyed and immigrants dead of hunger and thirst in the desert.
For now, we can rely on our constitution and the laws on the books to protect innocent residents. If push comes to shove, we may need to do much more to protect the life and safety of the undocumented among us.