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Poll: Iowans Favor Immigrant Driver's Licenses

A new poll shows a majority of Iowans favor issuing driver's licenses to individuals, regardless of their immigration status. (Iowa Department of Transportation)
A new poll shows a majority of Iowans favor issuing driver's licenses to individuals, regardless of their immigration status. (Iowa Department of Transportation)
March 10, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - A number of groups, and some Iowa law enforcement officials back legislation authorizing the Iowa Department of Transportation to issue two-year, temporary visitor driver's licenses to individuals in the state, regardless of their immigration status.

A poll commissioned by the ACLU of Iowa shows 58 percent of all Iowa caucus-goers are in favor of the move.

Erica Johnson, advocacy director of the ACLU of Iowa, says it's a step states can take to fix gaps in federal legislation on immigration.

"Congress isn't going to move forward any time soon with a fix of the immigration system," says Johnson. "So it seems to me that on this issue, and a couple of others, locally people are really digging in to figure out how our communities are impacted by the lack of action on the federal level, and what we can be doing locally to make common sense fixes."

Eleven states have approved similar driver's license provisions, which require an individual to take a driver's test and get mandatory car insurance.

Johnson says there are 75,000 undocumented immigrants in Iowa, 55,000 of whom are of working age.

She says many drive without a license or insurance, so the proposed legislation would make the roads safer.

"Our public transportation systems aren't the best," says Johnson. "A rural state, so in a lot of places, public transportation doesn't even exist. So this seems like a really common sense way to address some of those really practical problems."

A pending bill, House File 2318, was introduced by Rep. John Kooiker, a Boyden Republican.

Johnson says the poll is the first time Iowans have weighed in on the issue, and mirrors a sense that action needs to be taken.

"The inaction on the federal level, how that manifests itself locally in our communities, there seem to be some really specific, targeted things that we can do to address the way that the problem manifests itself locally," Johnson says.

The poll surveyed 506 caucus-goers, with slightly more Republicans than Democrats participating in the survey.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA