Tennessee’s “certificate for driving,” which identifies its holder as a non-U.S. citizen, resembles a driver’s license. Below the state flag are the words: “For driving purposes only – not valid for identification.” The Los Angeles Times says the purple card represents Tennessee’s effort to solve a problem that has troubled many states. Faced with huge numbers of illegal immigrants driving, legislators have searched for a way to license and insure them – without granting them state-issued driver’s licenses. Tennessee’s answer is the certificate for driving, which is being distributed to drivers who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent legal U.S. residents. Legal immigrants on temporary student and work visas receive the certificate, as will illegal immigrants.
Nearly a month after Tennessee began distributing the new cards, few are cheering the compromise. Advocates for immigrants complain that the certificates mark their holders as inferior in the eyes of the state. Anti-immigration lawmakers have the opposite complaint – that the cards give illegal immigrants legitimacy they should not have. With 1,200 of the cards issued, many Tennesseans are confused: Will the card be of use when cashing a check or renting a video or a car? When a police officer pulls a driver over and is shown the driving certificate, can the officer arrest the holder for failing to show proper ID? If the card is not identification, what is it?