One Big Benefit of Issuing Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants
In this article for the Pacific Standard from April 3rd, author Tom Jacobs addresses the issue of hit-and-run accidents committed by undocumented immigrants. He starts by stating the solution that’s being implemented first–the law in California that went into effect in January of 2015 that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses–and kind of assumes that people know that hit-and-runs by undocumented immigrants was a problem in the first place. (This could possibly be because Jacobs is writing for the Pacific Sun; maybe it’s an issue of widespread public knowledge in California.) The law also includes a provision stating that police officers cannot report undocumented license holders to the immigration office, so they won’t be deported.
The article itself is a follow-up to the law over a year after it was implemented. Jacobs points out that new reports have been published stating that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants has, in fact, decreased the number of hit-and-runs. Jacobs cites data from Stanford political scientists estimating “the new law ‘let to an average decrease in the rate of hit-and-run accidents between 7 and 10 percent.'” He clarifies that this amounts to about 4,000 fewer accidents, to give the reader a more concrete sense of what that statistic signifies.
Jacobs also notes that there was no increase in accidents in general because the majority of the drivers already had sufficient experience; they just didn’t have the license to back it up, and so were more likely to flee accidents for fear of their car being impounded. He notes that the amount of car registrations didn’t increase, so these undocumented immigrants were even driving registered cars in the first place. I think that including these facts increases the effectiveness of the article because it helps to dispel some of the stigma surrounding undocumented immigrants (painting them as capable, law abiding individuals rather than delinquents) and shows the reader that there were no negative effects of this new law, only positive.