Lawmakers discuss limited term drivers licenses

Several thousand people from North Korea currently hold Texas Drivers Licenses. That's not from a movie script, but from DPS which has a special a classification of licenses for people who are not citizens of the United States.

Driving in Texas requires a license even if you are from another country. State Representative Tony Dale wanted to know just how many foreigners have a Texas Driver's license and where they are from.

"I was pretty stunned to see some of the countries people come from, absolutely," said Rep. Dale.

The Cedar Park Republican provided FOX7 with the list sent to him by the Department of Public Safety. According to DPS, within the past 3 years almost 600,000 drivers licenses have been issued to people from 175 different countries. Four stood out for the Representative; 47,000 are from communist China, nearly 300 licenses are held by Libyans. Even citizens from Iran and North Korea, 3,000 each, have a Texas drivers license.

"I'm not saying all of these people are bad, but there are certainly people from countries of concern," said Rep. Dale.

The licenses are classified as "Limited Term." They are only issued to those legally in the United States and cleared by the federal Department of Homeland Security. But as Representative Dale points out the cards look just like the other types of Driver's Licenses issued by the state and for him that can cause a problem.

"Really what it comes down to is, if the state is going to issue about a quarter of a million of these every year which is what it seems the trend has been I certainly don't want these people voting participating in elections either," said Rep. Dale.

Dale filed HB 3840 to give the limited term license more than just a makeover. Cards would be vertical like those issued to teen drivers. A complete set of finger prints would be required as well as proof of insurance. There would also be a disclaimer; that the cards cannot be used to board a plane, get federal benefits, or be used as voter ID.

Up until a few years ago, the state was issuing limited term drivers licenses similar to what the Representative is calling for. But the practice was challenge in court. A drivers license for a non-citizen was once vertical. Stamped in red on the top of the card were the words,"Temporary Visitor", which were later amended to limited term. The old way changed after attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund argued the practice was discriminatory.

"So why invite further discrimination," said David Hinojosa with the MALDF.

The organization, according to Hinojosa, will oppose HB 3840 the same way MALDF fought the issue in 2008.

"The state knew that it was causing persons to be singled out for discrimination in applying for jobs and applying for financial aid for schools, for all these simple daily tasks," said Hinojosa.

There's no objection to the use of a vertical license for teenagers, Hinojosa told FOX7, because that format is done to prevent the sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors. Representative Dale believes history justifies the changes he is proposing.

"I think back to 9/11 it's the greatest example, most of the people who participated in the 9/11 attack came to the Unites States legally and overstayed their Visas, and I believe at least a couple of them had Virginia Driver's Licenses and we certainly don't want to see a repeat of something like that."