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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It Had To Be The Big Apple!

A few days ago I went to bed with the appeasing notion that it is not only mine and a few other voices anymore. It’s now two cities in the US which seem to have come to the same conclusion. Recently, the cosmopolitan, advanced, diverse, New York City finally approved the issuance of Driver Licenses to undocumented immigrants. This is the kind of attitude and vision that sets the Big Apple apart from most other cities.

The way I see it, this is something that needs to happen everywhere and soon. Why? Let’s analyze it. First and foremost we need to clearly understand that having a driver’s license only means that one knows how to drive, that we are in reality, the person we claim to be, and it also provides our DOB plus our permanent residence address. That’s all! It does not mean absolutely anything more than that. As we know, a driver’s license, along with the title of the car, also gives us the opportunity to get car insurance (which is mandatory in the State of California.)

So far, so good I hope. We’re just talking about the facts of an identification document which confirms that we know how to operate a vehicle. Great!

Now, let’s pretend that we are peacefully driving on the beautiful Santa Barbara streets, and we have an accident; our vehicle is totaled and we end up going to the ER with (let’s not be dramatic) minor injuries. A few days later, when we look at the police report we are faced with several unsettling facts like the other car did not have insurance, the driver did not have a DL and that he or she possibly, gave a fake name. How do you like this case scenario? Maybe it has happened to you, and you know exactly how it feels. If not, I’m sure just thinking about it gives you the chills as it does to me. This is only one reason why every driver should have a license.

It seems like there’s no logical argument against it. It is what better protects everyone, and this is precisely the main responsibility that the government has. But there’s still opposition. Some argue that undocumented immigrants should not be able to obtain any legal document. Ok, this is like the pink elephant in the middle of the room! Not because they don’t have a DL they’re not going to drive, hello! What will continue to happen is that a number of people will still be unidentified, and unaccounted for. It seems like some sort of political agenda is cashing in on the fear that some already have of those undocumented. But even if it was true that undocumented immigrants are to be feared (forget altogether the wrongfulness of stereotyping), wouldn’t we really want to know who they are in order to be able to catch them as soon as they “make their first unlawful move”?

The reality is that the vast majority of documented and undocumented immigrants are here to work hard, which is not only beneficial to them and their families, but also to our country which has historically greatly profited from their labor. And yes, there are other practical reasons why they should have a DL. Without a legal ID people cannot only drive freely on our roads, but they cannot open a bank account, cash a check at a bank, or start a credit history. I have the distinct feeling that this injustice is not what our founding fathers had in mind when they chose to have the “liberty and justice for all” declaration in our Pledge of Allegiance.

Anyway, I will rest this political battle for now with the hope that one by one other cities in the U.S. (including our beautiful Santa Barbara) will soon come to reason, and give the green light to DL’s for ALL drivers.

In the meantime, I wish you ¡Buena suerte y hasta la próxima!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

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