Indiana Sees Push for Illegal Alien Drivers’ Licenses in 2023
FAIR Take | September 2022
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers in Indiana is planning to introduce a bill in the 2023 legislative session to give drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. The bill appears to have significant Republican support so it is more likely to pass than in previous sessions since the Republicans have a trifecta, controlling both legislative chambers and the governorship.
The Indiana House Roads and Transportation Interim Study Committee, chaired by Representative Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie), heard testimony in support of granting drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens on September 20. Chairman Pressel says “[y]ou’re going to see a bill” next year and that it is apparently already over 200 pages long. Another Republican legislator, Rep. Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo), who sponsored a similar bill in 2021, also voiced his support at the hearing.
In addition to open-borders groups, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) is supporting this effort. The Chamber represents big business interests seeking to expand their supply of cheap illegal labor.
Many states deliberately banned illegal aliens from getting drivers’ licenses in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when the hijackers between them had over thirty state-issued drivers’ licenses and other identification (ID) cards. This also prompted the passage of the federal REAL ID Act in 2005. But now many states appear to be forgetting these lessons.
Despite claims by open-borders advocates that providing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens reduces the number of uninsured drivers on the road, Insurance Institute of Indiana President Marty Wood admitted they don’t.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently issue drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens; Rhode Island will become the seventeenth when its new law takes effect on July 1 of next year.
Similar bills have been introduced in the Indiana legislature for at least the past seven years. However, Republican support for the idea appears to be a relatively recent development. Unlike previous years where these bills did not receive a hearing, it is likely that one will be scheduled during the 2023 legislative session.
While most of the study committee’s members were supportive, Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) voiced his concern, saying driving “is a privilege granted to citizens of the great state of Indiana, and these people aren’t citizens.”
Neither House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) nor Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) have publicly stated their position on providing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives by 79-21 and the Indiana Senate 39-11, although these numbers could change somewhat in November’s elections. Therefore, heavy Republican support in both chambers would be needed to pass a drivers’ licenses bill in the state.
Even if a bill passed the legislature, it is not clear whether Governor Eric Holcomb (R) would sign it. Holcomb has not taken a position on the issue. However, some of his actions on other immigration-related legislation are troubling, most notably signing a bill in 2018, Senate Bill (SB) 419, which authorized large categories of illegal aliens to apply for occupational and professional licenses in Indiana.
If the governor did veto a drivers’ licenses bill it would only take a simple majority vote in each chamber to override a veto.
If Indiana does grant drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens, it would be the first state to do so under a Republican trifecta.
Unlike Massachusetts, where the question of banning drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens qualified for this November’s general election ballot by gathering enough signatures on a petition, Indiana does not have a citizen initiative/petition process.