Opponents call new driver's license rules 'institutionalized racism'



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Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 20 at 11:12 AM


KVUE's Jessica Vess reports

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AUSTIN - It can be a hassle waiting to hear your number called at the driver's license office, but some drivers are facing more difficulty than that.

"I never was informed that I was going to get this special license," said state resident, Edwin Palacio.

After waiting in line, giving his thumbprint and taking a new picture, Palacio got a Texas license in the mail that looked unlike any other he's ever received.

"It said 'Temporary Visitor' it came as a shock because I've never considered myself a temporary visitor," said Palacio.

Palacio moved to the United States from the Philippines years ago. He's been in Austin since 2004. He says he is a legal resident. His license however shows he's still a temporary visitor.

"It may look good on paper for DPS to require proof of identity by a birth certificate or a colored passport, but this effort at best is misguided," said State Representative, Ruth Jones McClendon.

On October 1, the Texas Department of Public Safety began issuing new licenses for legal immigrants like Palacio and residents without documentation. The rule is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses. The temporary visitor cards must be renewed every year; each time the driver must prove once again, his or her legal status.

The rule is intended to increase state security.

"Enhancing the security and integrity of the Texas driver's license in paramount," said Katherine Cesinger of Texas Governor Rick Perry's Office, "The governor supports having any driver's license applicant prove that they are in legal standing," she added.

However, some state lawmakers say it was a rule the agency took too far.

One state representative filed a bill on Tuesday. He wants any decision regarding changes to the Texas driver's license left up to state law makers -- not to DPS.

"We're not going to do this kind of institutionalized racism. I don't want to overstate the situation but a lot of us are very irritated with the agency," said Representative Lon Burnam.

The Legislature will decide in mid January, when its next session begins, whether or not it can or will override the new DPS rule.

Similar rules have come up before state lawmakers in past years. Each time, representatives rejected the policy.