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April 26, 2015

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Sen. Mo Denis proposes driver’s privilege cards for undocumented immigrants


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Sen. Mo Denis asks a question during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on the second day of the 2011 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in Carson City.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring legislation that would require the state to issue a driver’s privilege card to undocumented immigrants and other Nevadans who don’t want to jump through the stricter identification hoops for a true driver’s license.

The driver’s privilege card could not be used for identification but would allow undocumented immigrants and others to drive legally and obtain liability insurance, Denis said.

“In 2006, I did the research and I was ready to do a bill draft request, but I didn’t have enough support to do it,” Denis said. “So, it’s never been tried officially before now.”

Denis’s Democratic co-sponsors for the driver’s privilege card include Assemblyman Steven Brooks, Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante-Adams, Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores and Sen. Ruben Kihuen.

No Republican co-sponsors have signed on to the proposed legislation.

Denis said issuing driver’s privilege cards to undocumented immigrants is a safety issue, not an immigration issue. Still, the notion has been controversial in other states, as opponents argue immigrants who broke the law to come to the United States shouldn’t be granted the privilege to drive.

Denis contends the ability to drive legally would prompt more undocumented immigrants to obtain insurance, increasing safety for all motorists.

“This really is an issue about safety,” Denis said. “We’ve had a lot of hit-and-runs that occur because of individuals driving without a license.

“So, the concept is basically giving somebody permission to drive. This isn’t just about undocumented individuals. Some people are here legally on a visa and normally wouldn’t be allowed to get a license. Or maybe there is a citizen who wouldn’t want to go through the process now for the driver’s license with all of the requirements under the Real ID act.”

Denis said Gov. Brian Sandoval expressed support for the concept in a brief phone conversation with Denis.

“He is good with the concept, he just needs to see the details,” Denis said.

“I think that we are going to get Republican support on the issue. If you really look at it, the true issue is a safety issue.”

Mere weeks after Hispanic voters played an influential — and growing — role in the 2012 election, state lawmakers are jumping on policy issues seen as favorable to the Latino voting bloc.

Last week, Sandoval backed a state policy that allows the DMV to issue driver’s licenses to young immigrants brought to the country illegally who are eligible for a deportation reprieve through Obama’s deferred action program.

The leadership of the Senate Republican caucus also expressed support for that policy.

Denis’ driver’s privilege legislation is modeled after a similar law originally passed in Utah in 2005. That state recently passed amendments requiring immigrants to submit fingerprints and criminal background checks to renew or obtain a card — restrictions that Denis said he isn’t entirely supportive of.

Denis also said Nevada would have to work out protections for immigrants worried that such a card would help Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials identify and deport them.

“That’s something that came up in Utah and they were able to work out,” Denis said. “ICE just can’t come in and do that. ICE doesn’t normally do that anyway. For me, we are going to have to have some kind of assurance that this is not going to happen.”

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  1. I realize that some correspondents to these threads will have serious reservations about providing any apparent benefit to undocumented folk. The benefit, though, is more to the rest of us. Consider the number of unlicensed, uninsured drivers, many of whom are undocumented. Las Vegas has high accident rates and corresponding insurance. I compare this to immunizations. According to Roberta there are thousands of undocumented kids in the School District. Is it better to make sure that they are immunized against communicable diseases or let some plague run amok? I'll take the former please.

  2. Mr. Denis,

    I contend your contention "...the ability to drive legally would prompt more undocumented immigrants to obtain insurance, increasing safety for all motorists" is wrong. Regardless, it is not how our society operates.

    It would seem to me that you "don't want to jump through the stricter identification hoops" and are chosing the path of least resistance.

    Please don't - please work to solve the issue.


  3. So again, lets reward law breaking.

  4. Heads exploding!

    Policy makers need to move forward with sensible policies - such as this policy. They need to stop being distracted by these bigots and instead move forward.

    Bigots will cry foul and cry the loudest - but we cannot allow such a bigoted minority group prevent the majority of people in moving forward with sensible policies.

  5. "This really is an issue about safety," Denis said.

    Really? Then repeal the cell phone while driving law. Fatalities were up 83% as of June, most likely as a result of people hiding their cell phones while still using them.

    Also, if it's about safety, then pass a law stating all drivers over age 65 must pass a driving test every year in order to maintain their driver licenses. Oh wait, elderly people vote. If you do that you won't get re-elected. Nevermind.

  6. Heeeeyyyyy , why not? they're already abusing the welfare system , and have most of the construction jobs , and now they can drive thier landscaping trucks legally with this bill. I just want to know if the I.D. is going to be in spanglish?

  7. This is simply ridiculous. Might just as well make these illegals citizens. This tippy-toe foolishness is for the birds.

  8. Next_Opinion, I know the article does not mention cell phones....but its the obvious conclusion that nobody wants to admit.

  9. I can usually tell the undocumented driver because they are driving the speed limit, while the citizens are speeding.

    Not sure this is a safety issue as much as it is a way to sell more liability insurance. Wonder who the lobbyists are promoting this legislation?

    This legislation will make no difference for most undocumented workers. They won't put themselves in the records, can't afford liability insurance, and can get rides to work from legal driver's they work with.

    If you want to stop undocumented workers from coming here, no matter from where they come, heavily penalize and/or imprison US employers who hire them. That will dry up the well of work, and answer all the other complaints people have against them.

  10. This same issue is being discussed here in Illinois. The logic is - if these people can get legit drivers' licenses, our roads would be safer. That's a bunch of BS!!! The roads aren't any safer now with those driving with legitimate licenses!! Also - Does the State of Illinois AND Nevada REALLY think these people are going to buy insurance??? Really????

    A legit driver's license should be given while one is in the process to become a LEGAL citizen - not a reward for being here illegally with the hope that giving them a license will make our roads safer because in all reality it won't make one damn bit of difference.

    Also - while in the process of getting that license, not only a driving test and rules of the road test should be administered - but classes on how to put stuff securely in the back of a pickup truck so it doesn't come tumbling out on the street. Having a person standing in the back holding it with their arms doesn't count. And yes - I have seen this scenario more times than I ever thought I would when I lived in Vegas. I see it occasionally here but because our weather is crappy most of the time - anything in the back of the truck is usually covered and tied down.