Q: "There has been discussion on drivers licenses being issued to those who are not citizens of the United States. If the state issues drivers licenses to these people, what will the plan be to furnish insurance? Too many accidents have happened with serious injuries and even death in many cases with the driver not having insurance, and getting off with no punishment." - Reader submitted
State Rep. Dean Fisher
"First, let's clarify the issue. Iowa has long issued drivers licenses to non-citizens, those that are legal alien residents who have proper work visas, or are here for other legitimate purposes. The more recent issue with issuance of driver's licenses has been the fact that the federal government has given illegal aliens that meet certain criteria a "deferred" deportation status. This class of illegal alien may be here because they were brought into the country as children by parents who were violating immigration law. At this time, the Iowa Department of Transportation is in fact issuing driver's licenses to this class of illegal aliens designated deferred. Offering these deferred status illegal aliens a license is problematic as it rewards the parents for their illegal activity. The last time I had heard approximately 100 licenses had been issued to deferred individuals.
As to the insurance question, after checking with my contacts in the insurance industry I found that as long as a person has a properly issued driver's license they can acquire insurance like anyone else. However, since they likely cannot demonstrate that they have prior insurance, they will be referred to a high risk insurance carrier. These policies will typically demand a premium thirty to forty percent higher. Presumably once they have a demonstrated clean driving record for a proper period their premiums will be reduced.
The issue of illegal aliens causing accidents is a very serious one, particularly in Tama and Marshall Counties. I personally know of a family that lost a loved one in such an incident. Given the low incidence of licenses issued so far, and the fact that illegal aliens that don't meet the criteria for deferral may still be driving without licenses, it is not likely to have much impact, if any.
The fact that many illegal aliens that are caught driving are not properly punished is also a serious issue. Law enforcement and our courts are charged with just that, enforcing the law. They are not charged with making policy decisions as to whether or not certain laws should or should not be followed. We need to do more to hold them accountable for properly prosecuting those that drive without a driver's license.
State Sen. Steve Sodders
Did not respond.
Have a question for your Iowa legislators for this column?
Submit it to The Chronicle