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News Blog

Revoking Privileges

by Eric S. Peterson
- Posted // 2011-02-09 -

A bill to kill Utah’s driving privilege card passed favorably out of a Senate committee today. While two senators argued over the use of the word “privilege” For Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, Utah's driving privilege cards that have been in use since 2005 have amounted to a prize awarded to undocumented immigrants.

“Is it the place for Utah to say ‘Congratulations, you’ve skirted the system, here’s your ID,” Urquhart asked the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee in presenting his Senate Bill 138 to repeal the state's driving privilege card. Urquhart argued that the privilege was attracting undocumented immigrants to Utah but he also challenged the card as being a state-sanctioned fake ID.

“We are creating an identity based on whatever documents are dropped in front of us. With no ability or process to go and verify some of these documents,” Urquhart told the committee. He pointed out that some documents accepted for a driving privilege card include church records, school records and utility bills. All of which could be granted to fictitious personas. Such documents would supplement a passport or birth certificate from the applicant’s country of origin. Urquhart argued that the birth certificates could easily be forged since it’s difficult for the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles to verify foreign birth certificates.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who helped craft the passage of the driver’s privilege card in 2005 rebutted Urquhart’s bill by asking the committee to reconsider the meaning of “privilege.”

“If we repeal the driving privilege card we don’t want the privilege of having these people in a database, we don’t want them to have proof of insurance and we don’t them to want them to demonstrate driving proficiency,” Bramble told the committee. “But the point is that they will still be on the road.” Bramble pointed out that since 2005 two legislative audits have found that insurance held by holders of driving privilege cards was at a near identical rate to that of regular license holders.

He also pointed out that the card was not attracting new undocumented immigrants, presenting statistics to the committee that since 2007 the amount of privilege cards issued has remained between 41,000-43,000, reaching 41,932 cards issued as of late November 2010.

While Bramble argued for a practical approach, a number of speakers to the bill expressed concern over the message the privilege card sends.

“My concern is that we are a nation of laws and no matter how you look at this, we are rewarding negative behavior,” said Fred Downey, a concerned citizen who came to speak to the bill.

The bill passed favorably out of committee with only one dissenting vote from Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City.

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