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Hispanic Advocates Claim Licensing Laws Unfairly Target Immigrants

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Should illegal immigrants be allowed to drive in North Carolina? Advocates for the Hispanic community say tougher licensing laws since 9/11 are unfairly targeting immigrants. Many legislators say we are not being tough enough.

In the wake of the events of Sept. 11, North Carolina made it a little tougher to get a driver's license. You now need a Social Security number or a tax ID number.

Some say the result is some immigrants, many of them illegal immigrants, cannot get our renew their licenses. Dr. Nolo Martinez, Gov. Mike Easley's top adviser on Hispanic affairs, said he does not advocate anyone doing anything illegal.

"I think it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that a lot of individuals would by driving without knowing the rules and without carrying insurance," he said.

Advocates for the Hispanic community say they are trying to make things fair and safer for everyone out on the road. However, some legislators say the post-Sept. 11 rules may not be tough enough.

"If a person is in this country as an illegal alien, that's a problem in and of itself as far as I'm concerned," said Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake. "They either need to become legal citizens or be sent to their country to come in here and demand the same rights we have and remain an illegal citizen is not acceptable."

Martinez said there needs to be a compromise on immigrant drivers, but in his view, deporting people is not the answer. Capps said he hopes tougher licensing legislation he is backing passes, so that more drivers can get on the road safely and in the process become legal citizens.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says Hispanic drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in a drunk driving accident than other licensed drivers statewide. Members of the Hispanic community say they are sometimes the victims of racial profiling.


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