immigrant_drivingRALEIGH—Undocumented immigrants could soon be able to get legal driving privileges in North Carolina.

The proposal is part of a bill that would take multiple steps to identify criminals who are in the country illegally.

“This bill, I want to start out by saying has nothing to do with immigration, immigration law, or immigration reform. This is a bill about law enforcement and public safety,” said NC Rep. Harry Warren.

Under a bill known as the Highway Safety/ Citizens Protection Act, Warren and his fellow sponsors look to make it easier for law enforcement to identify criminals. It does this by increasing penalties for false IDs and disallowing certain documents for ID cards.

It also provides a way for undocumented immigrants to get restricted drivers permits if the person is given a background check, provides a fingerprint, and proof of insurance.

“Now there is no identification, faulty identification, or absolutely fraudulent identification offered to law enforcement by these people,” said NC Association of Chiefs of Police Legislative Counsel Fred Baggett.

However, some believe this is just opening the door to undocumented immigrants and making it easier for them to call North Carolina home.

“It doesn’t make any sense as to why someone would be in favor of enforcing immigration laws on the one hand and in the same law be encouraging illegal immigration,” said North Carolinians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement’s James Johnson.

Bill sponsors, including Rep. Warren, disagree and said this restricted permit is tougher to get than some offered in other states. They believe it will make keeping track of undocumented immigrants easier.

“There is nothing wrong with issuing a permit.  It is acknowledging that we have people driving without insurance, without being vetted, without being tested.  And to recognize that and for us as a legislative body to do nothing about it, is in my opinion, a dereliction of duty,” said Rep. Warren.

Similar legislation has been considered by this legislature before, but have not gotten the support needed to become law. The bill will go to the House finance committee for consideration.

– Loretta Boniti