SAN JUAN, RGV – La Unión del Pueblo Entero is hoping to raise $2,000 to take 55 of its members to the state Capitol in Austin in February to push for drivers’ licenses for immigrants.

The 84th Legislature will be underway by then and legislation to allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity to drive legally with insurance will be under consideration.

The issue is so personal to LUPE members, many of whom are undocumented, that they have already raised $700 themselves, digging into their own pockets in order to rent a bus to go make their case to state legislators.

Driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants is the No. 1 legislative issue for many LUPE members.
Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants is the No. 1 legislative issue for many LUPE members.

LUPE Communications Director John-Michael Torres sent an email alert out on Friday evening saying that the Legislature won’t just give immigrants a driver’s license. “We will have to push for it,” he said. “That means traveling to Austin to visit state legislators and rally support.”

Torres said that if each person receiving the email sent LUPE just $3, the group would easily raise the remaining $1,300 needed to hire a bus. There would even be enough money left over to cover food for the 55 LUPE members traveling to Austin, he said.

This is the pitch Torres made in his email alert:

“In Texas, thousands of immigrant mothers and fathers worry that a routine traffic stop could result in being deported away from their children. Without documents, immigrants are not allowed to get a driver’s license. Each time they take to the road, they risk traffic police asking them for their documents, arresting them, and calling immigration.”

Torres said Family is a core Texas value. Yet, he argued, “Texas keeps immigrants without documents in a state of fear by denying them access to drivers’ licenses.”

By making a donation today, Torres said, LUPE supporters could help the group push for “immigrant-friendly policies, including drivers’ licenses regardless of immigration status, in the next legislative session.”

Torres gave these bullet points in support of LUPE’s stance:

– Allowing new Americans to obtain a driver’s license will provide the opportunity for all drivers to take the written and driving skills tests, and to access insurance at an affordable rate.
– Immigrant mothers and fathers can get safely to and from work without worrying they may be stopped, asked for papers, and deported away from their children.
– More insured drivers means that individuals are held accountable for their own driving record, rather than the state paying for medical care and other associated costs.

“Help LUPE members rent a bus to travel to Austin and push for drivers’ licenses for immigrants. Make a tax-deductible donation today. Thanks for your support,” Torres concluded, in his email alert.

Click here to learn how to make a donation to LUPE’s driver’s license cause.

LUPE leaders such as Torres, Martha Sanchez and Tania Chavez made the case for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants at a recent Senate Hispanic Caucus summit at South Texas College in Weslaco. The three Senate Hispanic Caucus members present at the summit say they have already filed joint legislation to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to drive legally on Texas highways.

State Sens. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, and Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, have filed Senate Bill 132. It creates a Texas resident driver’s permit. In a news release the three senators say the bill will allow access to driver’s permits regardless of immigration status as well as promote safety and accountability.

“Ensuring that all drivers are driving legally and insured supports broader public safety goals such as increasing the likelihood that drivers know state traffic rules,” the news release states. “Many immigrants, including undocumented persons, are working in Texas and continue to drive to work to provide for their families and other day-to-day activities.”

The three senators made these individual statements about their legislation:

Hinojosa: “Currently millions of Texas workers cannot obtain a driver’s permit and insure their vehicles because of their citizenship status. These workers drive vehicles on Texas roads every day. These uninsured and unlicensed drivers present public safety concerns and liability issues for other drivers. S.B. 132 will allow certain Texas residents to obtain a driver’s permit so that they too can be responsible drivers.”

Rodriguez: “I look forward to working on this common sense legislation that will help immigrant communities access insurance, allow law enforcement to focus more on criminals and less on immigrant workers, and promote community safety.”

Garcia: “This bill is about making our roads safer and saving money in insurance rates for Texas consumers. A Texas resident driver’s permit will ensure all drivers know our traffic laws and have affordable access to car insurance. This will help every driving Texan.”

The three senators cite the National Immigration Law Center in stating that 11 states including the District of Columbia have enacted laws to issue driver’s licenses to people who are residents but not citizens of the United States.

A taskforce that was formed in 2014 to guide the Senate Hispanic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus on legislative policy issues has said that lawmakers should ensure that information about those applying for a Texas driver’s license should not be turned over to immigration officials unless the applicant is under criminal investigation.