Lawmaker argues new 'limited' driver's licenses open to abuse - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lawmaker argues new 'limited' driver's licenses open to abuse

Republican Sen. Sam Slom Republican Sen. Sam Slom
Immigration attorney Maile Hirota Immigration attorney Maile Hirota
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The city issued eight "limited purpose" driver's licenses on Monday, the first day they became available.

Supporters of the license say is a public safety measure. It's designed for undocumented immigrants and others who pass the driving test but don't have a Social Security number.

But opponents continue to argue it's a bad idea.

State Sen. Sam Slom was the lone lawmaker to oppose the creation of the a "limited purpose" driver's license in the islands.

"With RealID that the federal government imposed on us, it's really difficult for a lot of American citizens to get or renew their licenses. Now we're saying, 'Okay, but you folks, we're going to create a special category and you don't have to have the documentation.' My question is why not?" Slom said.

Immigration attorney Maile Hirota has clients who will apply for the new license. She views the law as a public safety measure

"The purpose of it is to allow for people to drive legally and be insured, so we have fewer uninsured drivers out there on the road," she said.

The limited license can only be used for driving. It can't be used to board an airplane, register to vote or apply for public benefits.

But Slom believes the state isn't equipped to prevent abuses.

"We don't follow up on illegal immigrants. We don't follow up on people who are here on expired visas and things like that," he said.  

He also questions why officers can't use the limited license to question a driver's citizenship or immigration status.

Hirota said that restriction removes the fear factor. 

"That prohibition against using it for law enforcement purposes was specifically placed in there to encourage undocumented people who would be applying for this to actually apply for it and not to be afraid," she said.

Hirota said immigrants who are here legally but don't have the proper documents for a license will also benefit from the law. Her office averages two calls a week from U.S. citizens who don't have the right documentation to get a driver's license.

"People are already driving whether they have a valid driver's license or not," she said.

"Why give special treatment to certain people? Why aren't they required to do the same things that everybody else does?" Slom said.

Estimates put the number of people eligible to apply for the license at 40,000.

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