Texans will soon have to prove their US citizenship before they are able to obtain or renew a driver’s license after the immigration reform provision was passed with the state’s school finance bill, according to multiple reports.
The measure was tucked away in the must-pass budget bill, according to media reports, and would have wide-ranging effect on state residents. Currently, the Department of Public Safety – the body that issues driver’s licenses in Texas – allows, but does not require, officers to ask a person for their proof of citizenship when they are applying for or renewing a license. Under the new law, it would be mandatory for officers to seek such information from every applicant.
While supporters of the policy argue that it will help combat terrorists and criminal activity by undocumented workers, critics say it will likely force illegal immigrants to risk driving without a license. In addition, many immigrants who have been living in the US for decades could even face deportation.
State Senator Tommy Williams, who authored the provision, told The Austin-American Statesman that the policy would not encourage racial profiling, as some fear, because it requires all applicants to provide the same documentation upon applying for a Texas ID.
There were approximately 1.7 million illegal immigrants living in Texas as of 2009, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Texas had the second-highest number of undocumented residents that year behind California, which was home to 2.7 million illegal aliens.