As recently as 2006, 10 states allowed immigrants to apply for a driver’s license without proving their legal residence. As border control has become a bigger political issue, however, that right has evaporated in all but three states: Utah, New Mexico, and Washington—which may soon be the last place where all drivers can get a regular license. Earlier this year Utah restricted all noncitizens to a special “driving privileges” card that can’t be used as identification. And in New Mexico, both gubernatorial candidates have said they would stop licensing drivers who can’t prove their legal status.
When the issue arose during the 2008 election, Barack Obama argued that licensing all drivers was a matter of highway safety (others opposed the idea on national-security grounds). But in the five states that have stopped licensing illegal immigrants for more than a year, there’s been no appreciable difference in the number of vehicle crashes, according to a NEWSWEEK review of state motor-vehicle data. If there are any reasons not to grant everyone the same access to roads, safety is not one of them.