Senator Grassley wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to find out the immigration history of 18-year-old Fernando Lopez Aguilar after a crash he was involved in killed a 12-year-old girl and injured four others.
State Senator Matt McCoy believes Grassley is politicizing a tragedy.
“I don`t see a real advantage to going back and trying to determine what his actual status is,” Sen. McCoy said.
In addition to homicide by reckless driving and other charges, Aguilar was charged with operating without a driver’s license and not having insurance.
In 2013, Senator McCoy proposed legislation that would have allowed undocumented immigrants in Iowa to have both.
“I think it makes perfect sense,” he said. “I know that if I was involved in an automobile accident, I would want to know that the person that hit me had a valid driver`s license and had proof of financial responsibility.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens urged McCoy to propose the legislation after Illinois passed a similar bill.
“When people come here, they come here because of work, they`re going to find work regardless, so why not make the roads safe,” said Joe Enriquez Henry, National Vice President of LULAC, Midwest Region. “Providing a driver`s license is not going to be a way to allow more people to come over here, it`s merely to provide safety on the road.”
“It`s very hard for someone to be here and not drive,” said Lori Chesser, Immigration Attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm. “The fact that someone doesn`t have a driver`s license doesn`t mean they`re going to not drive unfortunately. Sometimes that`s just out of necessity. I can see that can be a public safety benefit and I know a lot of law enforcement does support that idea.”
To that point, a public information officer for the Iowa State Patrol told Channel 13 one of the challenges of the job is when someone cannot be identified, adding that anything additional for an operator to have to identify themselves would be beneficial to all of law enforcement.
Regarding Iowa law as it pertains to the licensing of immigrants, the Iowa Department of Transportation is not authorized to issue a driver’s license to a person that is considered an undocumented immigrant, meaning that the person does not have proof of lawful status in the United States. This limitation stems from section 321.196(1) of the Iowa Code, which provides that when a an applicant is a foreign national who is temporarily present in this state, the license shall be issued only for the length of time the foreign national is authorized to be present as verified by the department, not to exceed two years. Because determination of immigration status and lawful presence is within the sole jurisdiction of the U.S. government, the Iowa DOT requires proof of lawful presence via federal immigration documents typically issued by USCIS (United States Customs and Immigrations Services).
The following link is for a copy of Iowa DOT’s brochure for new license applicants, and it details the documents an applicant must provide to prove their identity, date of birth, and lawful presence:
This information is also presented more interactively through Iowa DOT’s website at this link:
Just follow the link for proof of identity and it will take you through a series of questions that list the various federal immigration documents the Iowa DOT will accept.
Below is a link to the Iowa DOT’s administrative rules, which details in similar fashion the documents the Iowa DOT will accept to prove identity, date of birth and lawful presence.