Repeal of driver privilege card fails in Senate

Published: Saturday, March 5 2011 10:01 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — An attempt to repeal Utah's driver privilege card primarily used by undocumented immigrants failed in the state Senate on Friday. But a bill that would tighten requirements to obtain the license succeeded.

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, wanted to eliminate card because "it puts up a big welcome sign to illegal aliens." Furthermore, because only a birth certificate is needed to get the card, it is rife with fraud. "I think it's time we ended this practice," he said.

His SB138, would have done just that, but Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, successfully amended the measure to keep the program intact, with the requirement of fingerprints and a background check through the Bureau of Criminal Identification and the FBI. Those found to have felony criminal records would be referred to ICE and those with outstanding warrants to the appropriate jurisdiction.

The Senate passed the amended bill 23-5. It now moves to the House.

Urquhart ultimately voted in favor, but said it's not the bill he wanted.

"We have waged a hard fight on this. I do think it is a half step forward," he said.

Nearly 42,000 undocumented immigrants and about 700 noncitizen legal residents possess the card, according to the driver license division. The Legislature created the option in 2005 primarily to provide a way for noncitizens to obtain auto insurance.

Bramble, who was the driving force behind that legislation, said the number of cards issued has remained steady the past three or four years. He said illegal immigrants would continue to drive with or without the card. At least with the card, he said, drivers would have insurance and pass a driving test.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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