Safe Roads in Iowa: Why a Temporary Driver’s Card for Eligible Immigrants Protects the Public

We in law enforcement deal with a significant number of undocumented immigrants who live and work in our communities. This reality requires us to respond to new challenges as we look to promote public safety, one of which is the lack of a driver’s license among some immigrants in our communities.

A growing number of individuals, including some of us in law enforcement, support a change in the law to allow for issuing a "driver's card," which would be given after a person undergoes testing, gets mandatory insurance, and after that person proves their identity and Iowa residence.

 As long as those safeguards are met and information is verifiable, temporary licensing promotes law enforcement goals for public safety:

  1. Our roadway safety would be improved for all by ensuring that all drivers get tested on their driving skills, know the rules of the road, and have access to insurance. People driving without licenses are more likely to be involved in accidents, and more likely to flee from the scene of traffic accidents.
  2. The Iowa DOT database is used as a crime-fighting tool, to serve summons and execute warrants. Adding the thousands of people who will be eligible for temporary driving cards will expand that database, and allow for correct identification and apprehension of criminals in our communities.
  3. During medical emergencies involving immigrants, first responders, health care providers, and crime victim advocates would be able to use the license to identify the individuals they are assisting.

Thirteen states already offer some form of driver’s card to immigrants. These cards, which are compliant with federal REAL ID requirements, are visually distinct from other licenses. Proposals for temporary driver’s cards make clear that no one can use a driver’s card to register to vote or to actually vote, apply for public benefits, apply for a Firearm Owner ID card, board an airplane, or enter a federal building. The driver's card would have to be renewed every two years.

In Iowa, immigrants who are residents in our communities, but who don’t have a Social Security number would have to meet certain requirements, including:

  1. Passing a driver’s test and demonstrating knowledge of rules of the road
  2. Providing proof of established Iowa residency
  3. Providing proof of identification
  4. Obtaining and carrying proof of auto insurance

We believe that making a driver's card available to immigrants in our state will help make Iowa's roads safer by getting everyone tested, licensed, and bonded. And that is something that will benefit every single Iowan.


  •  Michael W. Tupper, Chief of Police, Marshalltown Police Department
  • Bill McCarthy, Sheriff, Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Daniel J. Trelka, Director of Safety Services, Waterloo, Iowa
  • Ric Martinez, Public Safety Director, Nevada, Iowa
  • Mark Prosser, Public Safety Director / Police Chief, Storm Lake Police Department
  • Judy Bradshaw, former Chief of Police, Des Moines Police Department
  •  Paul H. Fitzgerald, Sheriff, Story County Sheriff’s Office
  •  John R. "Jake" McGee, Chief of Police, Oskaloosa Police Department
  • Lawrence McNaul, West Liberty City Administrator/Chief of Police
  • Dennis Conard, Scott County Sheriff
  • Tony Thompson, Blackhawk County Sheriff
  • Ray Beltran, Eagle Grove Chief of Police
  • Larry Richtsmeier, Franklin County Sheriff



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