Fox News used the case of a woman whose son was killed by an unlicensed, undocumented immigrant driver to distort the debate over granting licenses to undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts. Fox has repeatedly highlighted similar cases over the years to stoke fears that licensing undocumented immigrants would make roads more dangerous when in fact the opposite is true. In fact, such fears have been criticized as “anti-immigrant hysteria.”
Current Massachusetts law requires that immigrants prove they're lawfully in the country to obtain a driver's license in the state. However, lawmakers have reportedly scheduled a hearing to debate an amendment to the law next month.
On Fox & Friends, Fox anchor Heather Nauert reported on the proposal, saying that an immigrant advocacy group in Massachusetts “say[s] that giving illegals licenses would make the roads safer, but one mother whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant driver disagrees.”
However, the evidence shows that licensing undocumented drivers makes roads safer. An increasing number of states in fact have responded to the problem of unlicensed, undocumented drivers by enacting laws that require them to be licensed, thus making sure they are trained and insured. As the Baltimore Sun editorialized following Maryland's approval of such a measure (emphasis added):
It should be obvious to anyone who depends on a car for getting back and forth to work, ferrying schoolchildren or running errands that the safety of everyone on the road is increased when all motorists have had to demonstrate a minimum level of competence in driving skills and knowledge of traffic laws. Protecting public safety is, after all, the main reason states require drivers to be licensed; the fact that government-issued licenses are also widely used as photo ID cards is an important but secondary consideration in deciding who can legally drive.
What the licenses can do, however, is help ensure that people who want to drive on the state's roads meet minimum safety standards and that their vehicles are registered and insured. Undocumented immigrants are less likely to leave the scene of an accident or attempt to flee from police if they know a traffic stop won't automatically get them deported for driving without a license, and that will greatly reduce the hazard such drivers pose to other motorists as well as make life easier for immigrants who are dependent on cars to get where they need to go.
The Sun went on to note that concerns that these measures have made residents less safe “are unfounded” and that such “objections are little more than the product of anti-immigrant hysteria, often whipped up for partisan advantage.”
Indeed, according to the National Immigration Law Center, after a similar law was enacted in New Mexico, the “rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to under 9 percent.”
Reporting on a 2012 study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that examined motor vehicle records over a 23-year period, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the report found that "[u]nlicensed drivers in California -- the vast majority of whom are illegal immigrants -- are nearly three times as likely to cause a fatal crash as licensed drivers." The Times reported that this “suggests that merely meeting the modest requirements necessary to get a license -- passing a written exam and driving test -- could improve road safety and help reduce the several thousand fatalities that occur in the state each year.”
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained in an editorial in favor of granting driver's licenses to Missouri's undocumented immigrants:
Most reasonable people would rather be sharing the road with others who can provide remuneration in case of an accident. Would you rather have a wreck with an insured, though undocumented immigrant, or an uninsured American citizen?
Some are concerned that granting legal driving privileges to undocumented immigrants connotes acceptance, Ms. Broder noted. “It sends a message of full participation,” she said.
Opponents say why grant more benefits to people who already are breaking the law? They contend that granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants will not reduce fatal collisions or hit-and-run accidents.
That's counterintuitive. If someone passes a driver's license test, he's likely to be a better driver than someone who doesn't. Otherwise, why bother with the test? Language barriers will not be a problem when it comes to reading a road sign.
Fox News has repeatedly used fatal cases involving unlicensed, undocumented immigrant drivers and inflammatory language to skew the debate against state measures to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.