There are dozens of questions concerning the bill awarding to illegal immigrants special licenses marked “FOR DRIVING PURPOSES ONLY,” some of which were discussed, others not, as the bill wended its way through the General Assembly .
Just to begin with, the notation on the license is at least in one respect like the Jewish star pinned on clothing during the Nazi period, the purpose of which was to alert authorities that the wearer was a doubtful-citizen slated for special treatment – or, as it turned out, mistreatment.
Legal immigrants, once they are embraced by their chosen country, simply disappear into the patriotic woodwork; they become citizens. “Undocumented immigrants,” having been documented with a license that singles them out as “the other,” do not therefore become citizens invested with the full panoply of citizens’ rights. They cannot use their licenses to vote, for example, which seems to be the primary reason their license will be marked “FOR DRIVING PURPOSES ONLY.”
Senator Joe Markley lightly fingered the point when he explained why he opposed the bill: “I oppose this legislation because I believe firmly in the essential importance of citizenship. And I believe there is no other ground on which we can meet, but as citizens of the United States. As citizens, we are equal. We stand on the same principles. We stand devoted to the same flag. We are subject to the same laws."
Illegal immigrants do not become legal immigrants simply because Connecticut, possibly the most progressive state in the union, has chosen to invest illegals with documentation that sets them apart from other citizens.
Governor Dannel Malloy, who used to be a prosecutor before he began to dabble in politics, issued a brief statement after he had signed the bill into law:
“This bill is first and foremost about public safety. It’s about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they’re operating registered, insured vehicles. There’s a reason these measures have been supported by local police and city leaders, and that other states are taking similar common-sense steps. They’re changes that benefit everyone taking a car out onto our roads and highways.
“It should also be noted that, like many issues, action on the federal level would address this problem in an even more comprehensive and sensible way. I continue to support those broader efforts at national reform, and urge Congress to follow the example being set by Connecticut and other states.”
The other states that have taken the “similar common sense steps” mention by Mr. Malloy are few in number. Only five states have passed a law similar to the one signed by Mr. Malloy. These few states, we are to understand from Mr. Malloy’s media release following passage of the bill, are blessed with legislators who are blessed with “common sense.” The slim numbers confirm the common suspicion that “nothing is so uncommon as common sense.” We are left to ponder the proposition that the 45 states that have not passed similar legislation are populated by arrant dreamers. The “police and city leaders” in other states less cutting edge than Connecticut who have not yet been thunderstruck by commonsense are, however, in the majority.
How will the special licenses be distributed? Does Connecticut have a list of undocumented, about to be documented, illegal immigrants? Will those awarded the license – hopefully after passing driving tests – be required to show they have purchased insurance before the licenses are handed out? Will the insurance and registration documentation similarly be marked to show that the holder is not invested with full citizenship rights? Will the insurance and registration cards be marked “FOR DRIVING PURPOSES ONLY?” If not, can the insurance or registration documents be presented to poll watchers as proof that the bearer may legitimately vote in federal, state and municipal election and referenda?
Mr. Malloy has noted that the federal government could address the issue of quasi- citizenship “in an even more comprehensive and sensible way.” But of course it has not, and the difference in treatment creates a certain moral and legal stress in Connecticut. What are the obligations of ordinary citizens presented with documentation that certifies the holder is in the country illegally? Is there a legal obligation to report such persons to federal authorities and may the person who fails to do so be cited? If a police officer pulls over for a driving infraction an undocumented immigrant who has no “FOR DRIVING PURPOSES ONLY” license, must the officer report that person to federal authorities for deportation? Will the record of illegal immigrants eligible to receive special licenses in Connecticut be shared with a) Connecticut enforcement officials and b) federal enforcement officials?
The process written into law in Connecticut not only creates a quasi-dual citizenship; it also creates – since federal and state laws are now in opposition to each other – dual legal obligations. Common sense would suggest that citizens of Connecticut should not be torn thus between the state Scylla and the federal Charybdis.