The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is “taking aim at new laws” in some states “that allow immigrants to get driver’s licenses without proof they are in the country legally”.
In December, New York became the 13th state to enact a similar law, which also restricts data sharing with federal authorities, according to The Associated Press.
The laws prohibit officials of the states’ Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from providing data to federal agencies that enforce immigration law unless a judge orders it.
The acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr Chad Wolf, reportedly sent a memo to all agencies in the department on Tuesday requesting a study on how the laws affect their enforcement operations.
DHS comprises federal agencies such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.
Wolf said in his memo, obtained by AP, that the department must be “prepared to deal with and counter these impacts as we protect the homeland.”
The directive asks each agency to survey what DMV information is already available, how it is used in day-to-day operations, and what are the security consequences without the data.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and New York City’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, are big obstacles to efforts by the President Donald Trump administration to restrict immigration.
New York City is home to an estimated 500,000 immigrants in the country illegally, reports AP, and cut off database access to at least three federal agencies last week when the law went into effect.
An estimated 265,000 immigrants without legal documents were expected to get driver’s licenses within three years, the news agency reported.
More than half of them in New York City, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Applicants must still get a permit and pass a road test to qualify for a “standard driver’s license,” which cannot be used for federal purposes like an enhanced driver’s license or Real ID.
“The Trump administration takes the mission of protecting the Homeland very seriously,” said DHS spokeswoman Heather Swift.
AP quoted her as saying the laws were short-sighted and unsafe and skirt immigration laws on the books for decades.
“These types of laws make it easier for terrorists and criminals to obtain fraudulent documents,” she said.
New York authorities and other state officials argue that the laws are meant to lower the number of uninsured people, improve traffic safety and allow for a better opportunity for work.