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Citizenship indication on driver’s license?


State Rep. Betty Irene Gay (R-Salem) has advanced HB 471 that requires all drivers’ licenses and nondrivers’ identification cards indicate whether the holder is a “US Citizen” or “Non-US Citizen.”

The legislation states: “Before the department issues any license to any person under this chapter, the department shall have examined evidence of the person's citizenship.” The bill provides no examples of suitable “evidence.” 

Non-citizens can get a license

Non-citizens who are living in New Hampshire legally —such as refugees, individuals on student visas, and individuals with an employment authorization card —may apply for a driver’s license if they can provide proper documentation of their legal status to the DMV. However, their citizenship status is not currently displayed on the license itself.

Immigrants who are here in New Hampshire illegally cannot get a driver’s license.

Currently, state licenses contain information such as gender, height, weight, age and a photo, and also indicate veteran status and whether the individual is an organ donor.

Pros and cons

Supporters of the legislation say an indication of “US Citizen” or “Non-US Citizen” will give law enforcement more information regarding a person’s status that could be helpful in determining whether the individual is in the country legally or illegally.

Supporters also argue this will also help prevent voter fraud by non-citizens trying to vote.

Opponents of the legislation say there is no reason for state officials and law enforcement to consider the citizenship status of drivers.  The federal government is responsible for immigration enforcement.  They argue that this legislation would unfairly stigmatize legal immigrants. Since proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate or naturalization papers —  must be shown in order to register to vote, they also argue the move is not an effective strategy for preventing voter fraud.

Should New Hampshire drivers’ licenses show if the person is a U.S. citizen?

Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page February 4, 2019

233 citizens responded 134 citizens were in favor of putting citizenship on driver's licenses51 citizens were opposed to citizenship on driver's licenses 48 citizens commented on related questions or issues
What Participants Said

Yes: 134 people were in favor of showing U.S. citizenship status on New Hampshire drivers’ license.

  • “While I prefer less government involvement in general I do feel there needs to be a difference between the resident/non-resident licenses as we use this as a form of ID when registering to vote as well as checking in to vote. There are plenty of non-residents here legally who should be able to get permission [from] the state to operate a motor vehicle.”
  • “Here in NH a ‘same day registered voter’ showing a non-citizen DL would be stopped from voting whereas an affidavit is subject to future verification and an ineligible voter would vote…”
  • “Yes. If you have nothing to hide this shouldn’t be a problem.”

No: 51 people were opposed to showing U.S. citizenship status on New Hampshire drivers’ licenses. 

  • “You need proper documentation just to GET a drivers license or ID. This law would just cause discrimination.”
  • “No. You can't register to vote if you aren't a citizen, so what does it matter? Employment documents for non-citizen immigrants already exist. This would be institutionalized racism just for the sake of racism.”
  • “All immigrants in US are required by Federal Law to carry proof of them being here legally at all times (passport, visa, green card, etc...). Why add another thing?”

Other: 48 people commented on related questions and issues instead.
These included:

  • Don’t license non-citizens: “Drivers licenses should be issued to US citizens ONLY.”
  • Real ID will solve issue: “It is not going to make a difference anyway, everyone in this state is going to have to get a real ID license and when you get one you have to bring docs. Like Birth cert. marriage license, etc.”

*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.

See additional comments on this question from Facebook

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