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Without Papers: Life in America

July 19, 2017
Plain English Version

Undocumented people in Connecticut can get a "drive only" driver's license.

What should a country do? There are millions of people in America who are here without legal documents. This means that at any time, for any reason, they can find themselves detained and deported.

Do not look to the federal government for help

There was a debate about finding ways to give many of the people a “legal status.” President Obama tried and failed to do this. A federal court said his plan was not proper. This is the same court system that found President Trump’s plan to bar many immigrants not legal.

One group of people could stay. These are young people who came here with undocumented parents. Even Trump has agreed to allow this group to remain.

There is no current federal effort to give legal status to more people. This does not mean "do nothing."

Why we have states and cities

States and cities are acting. But what is the problem they are trying to solve? Some say if you give a person “status” you are making him a part of the community. For example, more people will report a crime or cooperate with the police. Membership contributes to public safety.

The City of New York issues ID cards to the undocumented. People use the ID cards to open bank accounts and get credit cards. Some use the ID cards to get library cards. The cards also make it easier to register kids for school.

The federal government does not accept the ID cards.

California lets the undocumented get driver’s licenses. This is a big deal. What are the arguments for and against this?

The argument for this use is to make sure drivers pass a driving test. The license allows them to get insurance. This makes the whole community safer. It is a signal that the undocumented are welcome in California. In that sense, it reflects the views of those who support the drive to give people legal status. The licenses are for driving only. They cannot get you on an airplane.

The federal government does not honor the driver’s licenses.

What is the problem?

The arguments against the measures reflect the view of those who oppose legal status. New York city does, but New York State does not give driver’s licenses. The reason is clear. New York City is urban and liberal. Upstate New York is rural and conservative. Without some agreement between the two areas, it is hard to pass laws. One state senator said a license would allow terrorist to stay in the country. That reflects a state of mind. No one has encountered a Mexican terrorist. It could happen.

Is it better to engage the undocumented? After all, they must give up information about themselves to get ID cards and driver’s licenses. This puts them at some risk.

Advocates say the undocumented are here. They are real. They say it is better that we all know something about each other. Others say we should not give an inch on legal status.

Will President Trump be able to solve the problem?

Source: The New York Times July 18, 2017



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