Laughable Mexican ID cards welcomed in Utah
...Last month Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a bill to ban state and local governments from recognizing the Mexican identification cards commonly used by immigrants. The ID, called a matricula consular, is issued by Mexican consulates and helps Mexicans obtain drivers' licenses, open bank accounts and enroll themselves or their children in school. -- Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, by contrast, fully supports honoring the Mexican ID.
Laughable Mexican ID cards welcomed in Utah
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Mexican ID cards welcomed in Utah
By Diane Urbani Deseret News staff writer
For a particular group of Utahns, it's not the 2,100-mile U.S.-Mexico border that matters most these days. Rather, it's the 250-mile divider between the Beehive State and Colorado. There might as well be a sign saying "abierto" on the Utah side, with "cerrado" - closed - on the opposite side of the line.
Last month Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a bill to ban state and local governments from recognizing the Mexican identification cards commonly used by immigrants. The ID, called a matricula consular, is issued by Mexican consulates and helps Mexicans obtain drivers' licenses, open bank accounts and enroll themselves or their children in school.
Colorado Senate President John Andrews, a Republican sponsor of the bill, told Denver's Rocky Mountain News that the bill makes his the "first of any state to close the door on these bogus ID cards that attempt to blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. . . . We need to do this for homeland security."
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, by contrast, fully supports honoring the Mexican ID. He also endorsed the recently implemented policy of permitting undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition at Utah universities.
Owens, for his part, signed another bill banning such a tuition break.
During his February trade mission to Mexico City, Leavitt told Mexican journalists that he considered the matricula cards a boon to homeland security.
"All of us need to be worried about terrorism and who can be found on our borders. So it's important that they have an identification so they can be recognized. The matricula is the first step toward that identification," Leavitt was quoted as saying in El Heraldo de Mexico, a daily newspaper.
He has since said that the ID cards could help track migrant workers' children in Utah's schools and help families obtain health care, said Leavitt spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour.
Martin Torres, Mexican consul for Utah, Montana, Idaho and western Wyoming, has remarked on Utah's openness to immigrants. "I am really proud of the fact that Utah is an example" to the rest of the country, he said. "It is one of a handful of states issuing drivers' licenses to undocumented workers. And it is only the third state," after Texas and California, "to allow foreign students to pay in-state tuition at institutions of higher learning."
Issuing drivers' licenses to those who can provide valid ID and pass the driving test - regardless of status - is a boon to public safety, law enforcement officials say.
"If illegal immigrants don't have licenses, they can't get insurance and they can't register a vehicle. If you have someone out driving a car, would you prefer that they be licensed?" asked Judy Hamaker-Mann, director of Utah's Driver License Division.
"The reality is: If we don't license people, they're not going to go away," she said. "They're going to drive cars. If we allow them to be licensed, we can give them a road test, a written test and an eye test. And we develop quite a bit of a database, intelligencewise, about them."
As more Mexican immigrants move into Utah, joining family members and finding jobs that motivate them to stay, it makes sense to keep track of them, Hamaker-Mann said. The percentage of uninsured motorists, she added, has dropped as more Mexican immigrants have obtained drivers' licenses: In 1998, about 20 percent of drivers in Utah had no insurance; now that proportion is less than 4 percent. Many take the driver's license tests in Spanish. "Even though Utah is English-only, public safety issues are exempt" from that law.
It boils down to making Utah's streets safer, rather than enforcing what state Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers calls "a failed national policy" on immigration.
"This issue (of illegal immigration) is not going to be resolved in the next few years," Flowers said. In the meantime, state troopers are enforcing state traffic laws. "These folks are in the state anyway. If they have ID from the Mexican government that says who they are, that's more effective," he said, adding that issuing drivers' licenses to those who pass the tests and maintain clean records is simply good policy. Moreover, "It's not (state troopers') role to ask, 'Are you in this country legally or illegally?' "
Growing more vehement, Flowers said that apprehending illegal immigrants would be a monumentally impractical endeavor. "I don't think it's possible to deport everyone who's in our country illegally. Do you?"