On road to legal driving

By Mary Elena Salinas

Pretend for a moment that you work for me. Let’s say I hired you to do the dirty, backbreaking jobs that I either can’t do or won’t do. Jobs like mowing the lawn, re-roofing the house or emptying the septic tank. Or the time-consuming jobs that my busy schedule won’t allow me to do, like taking care of my children or an elderly relative.

Let’s say I agreed to pay you — as little money as possible, of course —once the job is done, but I insist on one condition: You are not allowed to drive to my house to do these jobs. I insist that you walk, take a bus, catch a train or get a ride with a friend.

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. But that’s exactly what is happening to millions of undocumented immigrants across the country. Despite the fact that they already live and work in this country, they are being denied driver’s licenses simply because they do not have a Social Security number, which in many states is required to get a driver’s license.

These are people who already live in our communities. They drive to work. They drop off and pick up their kids at school every day. They visit the local mall, just like the rest of us. Yet they are not allowed to obtain valid driver’s licenses.

Right now, 29 states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. In Texas, which also has a large immigrant population, the legislature approved the use of alternative documentation for driver’s license applicants. Despite bipartisan support, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the measure. He apparently was following the same wrong-headed anti-immigrant sentiment that Davis followed.

Letting immigrants get their licenses makes perfect sense.

First of all, immigrants — be they legal or not — must drive in order to survive, in most states. They contribute to this country’s economy. They need to drive in order to get to their jobs.

Second, we don’t want people on the roads who don’t know the rules of our roads. For our own safety and theirs, they should be allowed to get licenses.

And let’s not forget that they are doing the jobs that let us do ours and enjoy the American way of life.