An editorial in the Dallas Morning News today reaches the opposite conclusion than my earlier posts on the new Texas drivers licenses for immigrants. The News believes this will reduce profiling, and I think it will increase discrimination against legal immigrants.
We don’t ask FBI agents to stop searching for kidnap victims in order to write speeding tickets in school zones, so I don’t know why we should ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Here are excerpts from the editorial:
There are reasons to be squeamish about the new “temporary visitor” licenses and ID cards that the Department of Public Safety now issues to legal immigrants. There are also strong justifications, and, on balance, they outweigh the drawbacks.
The vertical layout of the new card is designed to distinguish its holder as someone deserving of extra scrutiny, which doesn’t sit well with many people. Immigrants might feel they’re getting a mixed message. We tell them to assimilate, but we issue them a special ID that says: You’re not one of us.
Yet this new format and the security measures behind it are necessary. There are 12 million or more illegal immigrants residing in America, and according to a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center study, nearly half of them arrived legally but overstayed their visas.
The new cards specifically address this problem, getting rid of the standard expiration periods that allowed immigrants to drive legally or present a valid ID even though they were in the country illegally. Instead, temporary visitors’ licenses will expire when their visas expire. The vertical format – the same one used for minors – tells law enforcement personnel to be extra vigilant.
Critics say the vertical card unnecessarily stigmatizes immigrants. Besides, the expiration date is all that really matters. But when officers in most cities stop drivers and see that the license expiration date has lapsed, the driver will receive only a misdemeanor citation. No arrest occurs.
With horizontal licenses, officers have no way of quickly determining whether a “foreign-looking” driver should be detained or allowed to leave. Ethnic considerations come into play as the officer decides whether an immigration check is necessary. The horizontal ID invites racial profiling. The vertical ID dramatically reduces that problem.