Immigrants Drivers Licenses Challenged

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Anchorage Republican Bob Lynn opened hearings Thursday to limit immigrants’ rights to an Alaska drivers license. His attempts to usher through a similar, but more complex, bill last year failed twice on the House floor.

Lynn, chairman of the House State Affairs committee, said under current law a person who is not a citizen of the United States, but legally present with a U.S. Visa, can get a five year drivers’ license, even if the Visa would expire the following day.

A staff member for Lynn said the Department of Homeland Security determines the length of stay for a non-citizen, saying the state should not offer legal documentation that outlasts the federal status.

Opponents say the federal government is very protective of its job of keeping up with immigrants. Alaska’s director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jeff Mittman, also said the bill is likely unconstitutional under federal and state precedent.

Homer Republican Paul Seaton objected to a provision in the bill that would further set apart immigrants whose legal expiration date is described as “indefinite.” He said that generally refers to refugees who have been admitted to the U.S. for political asylum. They could get a license for no longer than a year, although they would have to pay the same as an Alaskan getting a five year license.

Lynn originally said he wanted to move the bill on to the Finance committee after the single hearing, but agreed to hold it until next week to get the opinion of the Attorney General.

Download Audio (MP3)