HS News Network
Photo: Hector Luis Alamo Jr.
Today’s contributor is Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. Hector is a freelance writer and community activist of Honduran-Puerto Rican descent living in Chicago. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his departmental concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. In 2007 he co-founded an online blog, YoungObservers, and has remained its main contributor. Since 2010 he’s been the Opinions editor for the Chicago Flame, and he also contributes periodically for Examiner.com as its Chicago City Buzz Examiner. He is currently working on his first book.
This week Hispanically Speaking News posted an article published on an Arizona news website reporting that individuals in Princeton, New Jersey, are being issued identification cards regardless of citizenship status.
Although they’re mere community cards, for $15 each, the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund – a Latino advocacy group based in Princeton – has issued over 2500 identification cards since December to any person who can prove that he works or lives in the community. The program was imported from nearby Trenton.
Both Princeton Township Police Chief Mark Emann and Princeton Borough Police Chief David Dudeck strongly support the program. Emann describes the program as an opportunity for Princeton’s law enforcement officials to focus on serious offenses instead of investigating citizenship statuses.
“We’ve heard it all,” Emann said, referring to the minor opposition voiced by some community members. “But it’s a good program. It’s good for the police department, and it’s good for the community.”
Well done, Princeton! You have law enforcement officers you can truly be proud of. But why stop at identification cards?
We’re still plagued by the perennially controversial debate over whether state governments should issue driver’s licenses to undocumented citizens. And why shouldn’t they? Not allowing undocumented citizens the opportunity to study the rules of the road, practice, take the test, and be issued a driver’s license will hardly prevent them sharing the road with the rest of us. They will drive anyway, as a matter of necessity. By prohibiting undocumented citizens from taking the driving test and being issued a license to drive, we’re potentially creating a group of terrible drivers. A driver’s license is simply a means of identification that displays where a person lives and proves that he is certified to operate a car; and although it is the unofficial form of identification in the United States, it is not proof of citizenship.
Since we’ll be giving undocumented citizens driver’s licenses, it would allow them to purchase car insurance. As the law stands now, undocumented drivers are not only uncertified, they’re uninsured. Surely we don’t want a sizable portion of uninsured motorists roaming our roadways. Restricting an undocumented citizen from access to car insurance doesn’t punish him, but it could hurt the legal citizen he might eventually rear-end. Who can afford to pay out-of-pocket these days? And ask a friend or family member who’s struggling to make ends meet: having car insurance is less a privilege of citizenship and more a requirement of owning a car.
Allowing undocumented citizens to receive a driver’s license and purchase car insurance should not be seen as providing a social service to people living in this country illegally. It should be seen as providing a public service to the rest of the country that shares the road with such people. And driver’s licenses and car insurance don’t fall out of the sky; they have to be paid for, which would generate revenue for struggling state governments and not-so-struggling insurance companies. With so many benefits, it’s hard to see why the opposition doesn’t want this.
Unfortunately, malice may be behind such opposition. Americans with anti-immigrant sentiments want to see undocumented citizens suffer for their transgressions. But what most Americans fail to realize is that, while the United States is coping with a growing population of undocumented citizens, many undocumented citizens did not come here illegally or stay here illegally; they were either brought here illegally or kept here illegally as children. To punish a person for something done to him as a child is purely immoral.
The choice is ours: we can either have undocumented citizens who are certified and insured to drive, or we can have undocumented citizens who are not. Unless I’m missing something, the choice is clear.