Iowa View: Temporary card for immigrant drivers would protect the public

Posted at http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140202/OPINION02/302020036/Iowa-View-Temporary-card-immigrant-drivers-would-protect-public

Written by Mike Tupper and Bill McCarthy

MIKE TUPPER is Marshalltown Chief of Police and BILL MCCARTHY is the Polk County Sheriff. 

Paul Fitzgerald is the Story County sheriff. This column is also signed by Judy Bradshaw, Des Moines chief of police; Ric Martinez, Nevada public safety director; Mark Prosser, Storm Lake public safety director/police chief, and Daniel J. Trelka, Waterloo director of safety services. 


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 those challenges 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 temporary two-year “driver’s card,” which would be given after a person undergoes testing, gets mandatory insurance, and after proving identity and Iowa residence.

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

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 are more likely to flee from the scene of traffic accidents.

The Iowa Department of Transportation database is used as a crime-fighting tool to serve summons and execute warrants. Adding the thousands of people who would be eligible for temporary driving cards would expand that database and allow for correct identification and apprehension of criminals in our communities.

During medical emergencies involving immigrants, first responders, health care providers and crime victim advocates would be able to use the licenses 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:

• Passing a driver’s test and demonstrating knowledge of rules of the road.

• Providing proof of established Iowa residency.

• Providing proof of identification.

• 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.