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Cotton, Blackburn, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Bill to Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

February 12, 2020

Washington, D.C. - Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today joined Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) in introducing legislation that delivers tough financial consequences to states that flout federal immigration enforcement and harm public safety and national security. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) are cosponsoring the legislation, and Congressman Ken Buck (Colorado-04) is leading twenty-one House members in introducing companion legislation.

The Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Act blocks certain federal funds to sanctuary states, including states that defy federal immigration enforcement or that allow illegal aliens to get driver licenses without proof of lawful presence.

"We shouldn't legitimize those who break our immigration laws by giving them driver licenses. Unfortunately, states like California give illegal immigrants driver licenses and help them hide from federal law," said Senator Cotton. "Our bill will make sure that federal grants will only go to states who uphold our rule of law."

"Tennesseans know all too well what can happen when illegal immigrants are granted driver licenses," said Senator Blackburn. "While Tennessee and many other states prohibit driver licenses for illegal aliens, a growing number of states are moving in the opposite direction and unleashing dangerous open borders policies. Immigrants must follow the proper federal process and obtain citizenship or lawful status before obtaining a state driver license. In America, no one is above the law."

BACKGROUND

The Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Act halts certain Department of Justice grant funding to states that defy federal immigration law. Non-complying states will no longer have access to millions of dollars in funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The JAG program provides substantial support on a yearly basis to states for local law enforcement and criminal justice initiatives. In FY 2019, states that issued driver licenses to illegal immigrants received nearly $53 million from this program. This law will require states that issue driver licenses to illegal aliens or states that fail to share immigration enforcement information with the DHS to return unallocated funds to the JAG program within 30 days. Further, these states will be ineligible to receive future JAG funds until they comply with the driver license and federal information sharing provisions.

The REAL ID Act was passed in the wake of 9/11, after the terrorist hijackers easily obtained state driver licenses allowing them to board planes to launch their deadly attacks. Now, less than 20 years later, over a dozen states are already working to reverse efforts to ensure identification security. Some state laws, like California's law and New York's Green Light Law, go further than providing driver licenses to illegal aliens. Many of these sanctuary states also forbid local authorities from transferring information about potentially dangerous criminal aliens to DHS. Just last month, in New York City, a 92-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered by an illegal alien who was released from custody, despite being subject to a federal detainer-due to Mayor Bill de Blasio's lax sanctuary city policy.

The bill text is available here.