Drivers Licenses for Immigrants

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to get a Florida drivers license, raising concerns among critics, but supporters of the effort say granting legal drivers licenses to illegal immigrants would make Florida safer.

Highway safety officials estimate as many as half a million illegal immigrants live in Florida and many of them also drive illegally.

Jeb Bush supports legislation that would allow them to get a license if they meet tough requirements including background checks.

“If this bill passes, Florida will have the highest standards for illegal immigrants to get a drivers license,” says Gov. Bush.

If that sounds strange to you, you're not alone. Even people who generally support the concept, like Lebanese citizen Marwan Madi, have big concerns in the wake of 9/11.

Marwan Madi says, “With the whole security issue that's been going on in the U.S. for three years now, you need to be able to provide documentation that proves that you do not represent any harm to the country.”

Right now Florida law requires you to show that you are in the country legally before you can get a Florida driver's license, and there's a long list of very specific documents you need to show.

Under Sen. Rudy Garcia's proposal, illegal immigrants would now be able to show an ID card from their embassy or consulate instead as long as they're not on a list of terrorist countries.

“The bottom line is, how do we give the Department of Drivers Licenses the tools to find out who these people are and to get the unsafe drivers off of our roads, to get them to have insurance,” says Sen. Rudy Garcia, (R) Hialeah.

But there are still several complicated issues to work out, including how the illegal immigrants would be protected from deportation if they came forward voluntarily to get a license.

Earlier this year, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed a law that would have allowed an estimated two million illegal immigrants to apply for drivers licenses there.