The following is by Malcolm Richards, who is an intern at CIS this summer.
On Monday a federal appeals court ruled that young illegal aliens, “dreamers,” are entitled to driver’s licenses and has ordered Arizona to issue them. This judicial activism circumvents the normal legislative process where state legislatures decide who can and cannot obtain licenses. In late June, lawmakers in Massachusetts voted against advancing a bill to provide illegal aliens with driver’s licenses, making it one of the states where the legislature has listened to state residents.
Illegal aliens have the right to obtain driver’s licenses in 11 states nationwide. One of the numerous problems is that, in many cases, state officials are barred from alerting the federal government to the illegal resident status of certain applicants – even in cases of fraud. But the huge cost of administering these programs remains a little known fact to the public.
Beginning January 1, 2015, California will be the largest state to allow illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses. The Department of Homeland Security recently rejected the first proposal by state officials for being too similar to driver's licenses issued to legal citizens. But this problem is being addressed and the governor has allocated $64.7 million in his 2014-2015 budget to hire 800 temporary workers and pay for five new DMV facilities across California in anticipation of the added workload. The total cost of the program is expected to be $140 to $220 million over the next three years — mostly from state taxpayers. This is because the new license fees would only raise about $50 million in that time — leaving at least a $90 million shortfall. There are no plans to make illegal aliens pay a higher fee to compensate for the cost of the program.
On May 31, 2013, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) signed into law SB303, a bill that gives illegal aliens the right to apply for "driver privilege cards", but again this program also has serious drawbacks. The design and implementation of the cards will cost the state about $1.6 million, a bill again footed by tax payers. On one of the first days, DMV offices in Southern Nevada were overwhelmed by the number of applicants and had to stop applications because of the enormous backlog. In the first month, 90 percent of the applicants failed the required written test administered to all potential drivers.
In late 2013, Illinois became another state to allow illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses; in this case, the financing of the estimated $1 million pilot program comes from cuts in other departments. The Illinois Secretary of State argues an added fee will "eventually cover the cost of administering the program", but gives no numbers or dates.
Legal, taxpaying citizens should not have to foot this bill. Fiscal deficits are another reason that voters are voicing their disapproval over illegal aliens obtaining driver's licenses. Lawmakers and the courts should take note.