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How to drive in Texas if you are undocumented?

February 9, 2024 | Jany Martinez Ward
How to drive in Texas if you are undocumented?

Obtaining an official ID, such as a driver's license, becomes one of your biggest restrictions due to the lack of legal documents. 

Faced with this reality, uncertainty arises among many immigrants about the possibility of requesting a license without having immigration status or a work permit. Currently, only 19 states in the United States allow the issuance of licenses without requiring evidence of legal status. 

However, in states like Texas, this possibility is not available. In contrast, some states, such as Florida, not only refuse to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants but also revoke legal driving permits. 

In those states where it is possible to process the license, it is only used to drive or purchase car insurance. Still, it is not a valid document to obtain federal benefits, apply for permanent legal residence, vote, or use as identification on commercial trips, for example. 

In the specific case of Texas, undocumented immigrants face significant obstacles in obtaining a driver's license. A social security number is required, which excludes those without legal status. 

Although an initiative was proposed at the beginning of the year because there´s a need for driving licenses for undocumented in Texas, measures against this niche have intensified in recent months, complicating the approval of driver's licenses. 

The initial proposal included requirements such as the absence of a criminal record, completion of a driving test, and residence in Texas for at least one year. However, the initiative has not yet materialized. 

At the same time, a new law in Texas criminalizes not having a driver's license, providing false information to an officer, or refusing to identify yourself. These actions can result in deportation or even imprisonment. 

It is recommended that you always provide your name, address, and date of birth, even if lack of a license is considered a Class C misdemeanor, as lying to an officer could escalate the offense to a Class B, with the risk of six months in jail and criminal prosecution. Deportation process. 

At The Ward Law Group, we stand in solidarity with the Hispanic-American immigrant community, who, in certain contexts, are victims of xenophobic hate speech. We provide relevant information to empower people to recognize their rights. 

If you face any legal situation related to traffic accidents or other issues, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to provide you with the legal support you need. 

Alternatives For Undocumented immigrations in Texas

In Texas, there resides a population of more than 2.5 million undocumented drivers, and given this reality, a proposal has emerged to provide driving privileges for immigrants who are in the country without legal status, seeking to provide them with greater stability. 

The state representative of District 90, Ramón Romero Jr., is leading the initiative to reform HB 1869 with the objective of approving temporary licenses for these immigrants who currently drive without having any type of identification. 

Although it is not the first time similar projects have been presented in the Texas Capitol, activists remain hopeful that this proposal will be approved in the state. 

If the measure is approved in the state Capitol, certain requirements would be established to legalize the status of undocumented drivers: 

  1. They must not have criminal or criminal records in the United States. 
  2. They must pass a driving test. 
  3. They must have resided in Texas for more than one year. 
  4. The license must be renewed every two years. 

These key points seek to provide a legal framework to regulate the situation of undocumented drivers, giving them the opportunity to obtain a temporary driver's license under certain established criteria. 

The proposal aims to offer a solution that balances traffic safety with the needs of a sizable population of undocumented drivers in Texas. 

Where can an Undocumented Immigrant get a driver's license?

Backed by the constitutional authority of the 10th Amendment, which gives states the power to make their own rules so long as they do not conflict with federal law, 19 of the 50 American states, along with the District of Columbia, issue driver's licenses or authorization cards to unauthorized immigrants. 

These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. 

These states issue licenses if the applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, foreign passport, or consular card, as well as evidence of current residency in the state. 

Starting July 1, 2023, laws that will benefit immigrants who cannot provide proof of their legal status will go into effect in several states. 

However, on the same date, Florida's immigration law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, will void out-of-state driver's licenses issued to people living in the United States without legal authorization. 

In 2021, there were nearly 232.8 million licensed drivers in the country, with California leading with more than 27 million licenses issued, followed by Texas with more than 18 million and Florida with more than 16 million.  

New York was in fourth position with almost 12 million licenses. New states have joined the list of those that allow undocumented immigrants a driver's license. 

Minnesota, for example, recently became the latest state to enact legislation allowing driver's licenses without proof of legal presence. 

Starting October 1, 2023, HB 4/SB 27 in Minnesota will allow undocumented immigrants to take a driving test and receive a driver's license after presenting proof of identification, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate, adoption certificate, or a secondary document proving residency in the state. 

This license will be marked 'not for federal identification' and will not contain information regarding the legal presence of the holder. 

These laws seek to provide a solution to regularize the situation of undocumented drivers, balancing road safety with the needs of this considerable population in various states. 

It is essential to highlight that, by providing this information, The Ward Law Group stands in solidarity with the Hispanic American immigrant community in a vulnerable situation, which in some contexts faces xenophobic hate speech. 

At The Ward Law Group, we provide relevant information to empower people to recognize their rights. Call us at 855-DOLOR-55.

Additionally, we remind our readers that if you experience a traffic accident, you must contact us immediately to receive legal advice and representation. 

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Jany Martinez Ward
Partner

Jany Martínez-Ward is a Founding and Managing Partner of The Ward Law Group, PL, a Florida law firm representing victims of car accidents. She focuses her practice on providing legal representation to Hispanic clients that have become injured in a car accident as a result of the negligence of others. In 2018, The National Trial Lawyers Association recognized Jany as one of the top attorneys in the state and among the top 40 under 40 attorneys.

 

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