Two pieces of Texas legislation, House Bill 1845 (authored by Rep. Todd Smith) and Senate Bill 944 (authored by Sen. Steve Ogden), propose that immigrants carry new driver’s licenses that would identify them as non-citizens. These bills are severely problematic in a number of ways.
For one, this type of practice opens the door to discrimination, hate crimes and racial profiling. The current political climate, influenced in no small part by the corporate oil war in Iraq and the highly dubious triumphalism being drummed up in the media, is such that hate crimes can be expected to be committed with impunity and racial profiling can be carried out in the name of national security. After all, it was racism that so many politicians attempted to subtly use in order to draw popular support for this flagrant violation of international law.
Additionally, such official distinction of non-citizens will further fragment and divide citizens and non-citizens in Texas, because it suggests that there are inherent differences between the two groups and that, therefore, discrimination can be warranted.
The fact that these proposed laws would not affect Canadians reveals their thinly disguised racist nature. They are meant to make life difficult for people hailing from Latin American countries, and Mexico in particular. As a matter of fact, the term “non-citizen” on driver’s licenses would be all but an official synonym for “Mexican.”
These are racist pieces of legislation, and categorically anti-human-rights. They contradict Article 13 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state,” and, “(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
The bills could be a blessing in disguise in that they can be a wake-up call for the working class to further intensify organization against racist political agendas and send a message to those who would espouse them that Texans are poised to defend themselves from such policies.
Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, is among the supporters of Ogden’s bill claiming that it is needed in order to guard against terrorism and prevent the immigration of undocumented workers. She was quoted in the Brownsville Herald describing such immigration through Texas’ border as “a daisy chain … where you let one person into the country and then the whole family is recruited. It never ends.” Her use of daisies and the pronoun “it” in her objectification of immigrants reveals a truly racist, anti-Mexican position. It is also interesting to note that current Texas law allows for preferential treatment to be given to Canadians over other non-citizens in applying for and receiving driver’s licenses.
These bills could also constitute a wake-up call in the sense that they provoke the memory of Jews who were forced by Nazi law to identify themselves as such and Blacks in South Africa who were singled out to carry identification cards by the apartheid regime. While HB-1845 and SB-944 do not propose the establishment of such racist regimes, they most certainly would lay the groundwork for that type of reality to materialize in the long run.
Thankfully, a coalition whose members include the AFL-CIO, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Council of la Raza, is supporting legislation proposed by Weslaco lawmaker Miguel Wise, whose House Bill 57 would allow immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses through the verification of documents by their respective government. Already the Mexican consulate has expressed a willingness to verify Mexican documents for the Texas Department of Public Safety for Mexicans seeking driver’s licenses.
Roberto Botello is a reader from Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org