Under the Trump administration’s aggressive stance on illegal immigration, the moving car has become an easy target. A broken headlight, a seatbelt not worn, a child not in a car seat may be minor traffic violations– but for unauthorized immigrants, they can have life-altering consequences, the New York Times reports. Routine traffic stops have always carried the threat of deportation, but during the last years of the Obama administration, when serious crimes were prioritized, the stops that simply revealed unlawful status often resulted in no action. That is no longer true.
Rachael Yong Yow of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that over the past several months, there has been an increasing number of reports of traffic stops, whether in upstate New York, Florida or Minnesota, in which drivers have been taken into ICE custody. Even passengers have been detained, and face deportation. As many as 12 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, offer driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants, up from three in 2010. In large sections of the U.S., unauthorized immigrants drive without a license anyway — to work, to shop or to take their children to school or other activities. Supporters of efforts to allow those who are undocumented to get driver’s licenses say that public safety would improve because they would be required to pass road tests and obtain insurance. Critics said that licenses represented a privilege that unauthorized immigrants should not hold, because they should not be here in the first place. While Connecticut and Vermont enacted laws in 2013 that allow noncitizens to obtain licenses, a similar effort in New York has made little progress in more than a decade.