More Unlicensed Drivers and Longer DMV Lines, All Slipped Into a ... School Finance Bill?
The East Dallas driver's license office on a recent Wednesday morning. Cozy!
Those state-lawmaker types are a shifty bunch, eh?
During the state legislature's regular session, lawmakers debated a bill that would have required proof of citizenship or legal status for anyone applying for a new or renewed driver's license. That way, argues sponsor Tommy Williams, a Woodlands senator, illegal immigrants couldn't legally drive to the Home Depot parking lot to be picked up by the senator's friend, who really needs to get that fence finished this weekend, otherwise the wife won't let him play golf.
The measure didn't go anywhere, and was apparently pretty unpopular. But bad ideas never die easily, especially when there are guys named Tommy involved.
So, wouldn't you know it, we just received word from the Terri Burke, the not-at-all-pleased director of the Texas ACLU, who informs us that the driver's license provision passed after all. It was slipped into the must-pass school-finance bill at "the 11th hour," which apparently means "last minute." (We always thought it meant "almost time to leave the bar.")
"These new rules will cause lines to grow longer and individuals will be wrongly denied driver's licenses. Just think, many of us may not have, nor need, passports and have no idea where our birth certificates are.
"The main result will be to increase the number of unlicensed and therefore uninsured drivers in Texas. Some authorities estimate the number of uninsured drivers in Texas to be one of every four. Why would the legislature adopt a provision that will drive that figure even higher?"
The measure is similar to Voter ID laws passed in Texas and states around the country. Those laws are designed to make it harder for illegal immigrants (and dead people!) to fraudulently vote in our elections -- because, you know, illegal immigrants just love showing up at rooms full of really official paper work. In reality, the laws just make it harder for certain classes of people to vote. Really old people, mostly. As if dry skin and impending death aren't bad enough.
In this case, the law appears designed simply to make illegal immigrants take the bus. Because as every lawmaker figures it, taking the bus is such a degrading experience, the immigrants will probably just throw in the towel and head back to Guatemala or Canada or wherever. Or they'll drive just drive around unlicensed and uninsured, in which case we'll catch them and ship their asses back. Win-win, amigos.
In fact, the bill will just put more unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road, make the room above even more crowded. That's OK, though. The state is so flush that it's able to really staff up its driver's license offices, with workers ready and willing to whip through all that crumpled citizenship paperwork. Right?
Oh, wait. This is how many people the state has handling license applications on a random weekday morning:
Good call, Tommy. Good call.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.