June 19, 2021

New Texas Law Requires Drivers License Applicants to Prove Citizenship

A law just passed by the Texas State Legislature will link getting a driver’s license to a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Under the new law, anyone applying for or renewing their driver’s license will have to prove that they are either a citizen or present in the country legally. The law creates special licenses for temporary visa holders, tying the expiration date on their license to the expiration date on their visa. It also instructs Texas Department of Public Safety DPS to create a database of individuals who successfully prove their citizenship so that they do not have to do so each time they renew their license.

New Texas Law Requires Drivers License Applicants to Prove Citizenship

This was the third time this year that law makers tried make the controversial DPS policy into law. It failed as part of an omnibus homeland security bill and as part of a sanctuary-cities bill that was introduced during the Congress’s special session. This time, members of the Texas House of Representatives passed the legislation, SB 1, on June 28th as an amendment to an education funding bill that would balance state’s budget. The same legislation was also approved by the State Senate.

According to a report on the Houston Chronicle’s website, many Texans have concerns about the new law. Luis Figueroa, the legislative affairs attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, says that the policy has kept people with complex immigrations statuses from getting driver’s licenses, and that he is not sure whether the new law will change that.

Others worry that the law will lead to discrimination. Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, said to the Chronicle, “Why do I have to be questioned about my citizenship? You know I’m an American. Would they question someone that’s blonde haired and blue eyed?” Vikrant Gandhi, a market researcher and consultant from San Antonio, worries that his wife will be treated differently because her driver’s license identifies her as a temporary visitor. The two are considering moving to Colorado. Others worry that if it harder to get a driver’s license in Texas, more people will drive without one, and, without car insurance.

Supporters of the bill, such as, Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who introduced the legislation in one of the earlier bills, say that the new law will address many of the concerns people had with the original DPS policy. The law instructs DPS to make temporary visitors license look similar to other drivers licenses and it requires DPS offices in large cities and border areas to employee clerks who are to review immigration documents.