National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Community Resources

IDs & Licenses

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Since the terrorists attacks of September 11, some people have argued that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to obtain drivers licenses or other forms of identification, such as "consular IDs" issued by foreign governments.

States and localities have taken different approaches to this issue. Some have made undocumented immigrants ineligible for driver's licenses. Others realize that it becomes a public safety problem if undocumented workers are not allowed to have licenses—in some cases it forces them to drive without being tested on the rules of the road. Without a license, undocumented immigrants cannot get insurance, and this drives up the cost of insurance for other consumers.

States and localities are also weighing the pros and cons of accepting other forms of identification documents—particularly documents issued by foreign governments, such as the "consular ID." Identification documents are important for functions other than driving—to open a bank account, for example, or to identify oneself when stopped by the police.

At the federal level, there is a move to require all states to meet a federal standard for drivers licenses. Some proposals would make the driver's license perform more like a national ID.

In this section, we identify resources that give an overview of the issue of identification documents. Resources in this section discuss the importance of having licensed drivers on the road and the need for all residents, regardless of status, to be able to have accurate identity documents.

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