Immigration Newsletter

Friday, March 28, 2014

NH House (Democrats primarily) Pass Bill HB1135 that will target undocumented immigrants...

The world's end is undoubtedly nigh! If I were a member of the NH House (and yes, I know many are thankful I am not) I would have voted with Jordan Ulery (R. Dist 37)!

What makes this all the more ironic is that the bill (HB1135) relating to enhancing the penalties for driving without a license will have a disproportionate impact on undocumented immigrants - the favorite whipping boy of conservatives/libertarians like Mr. Ulery -- some of whom voted against the bill.

The impetus of the bill has been described by some as the terrible vehicular homicide case of Darriean Hess over on the Seacoast. In that tragic event, a number bicyclists were killed and maimed by Ms. Hess (who was not a licensed driver). Ms. Hess, however, cannot be charged under the proposed new law - but was charged with eight other offenses including negligent homicide, manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, driving under the influence of drugs -- which could result in 40 years in prison.

I don't see changing the driver license law in this way as being much of a deterrent in a case like Ms. Hess'; nor would it meaningfully add to her potential prison sentence. What the law will certainly do, however, is criminalize driving by undocumented immigrants - who are not allowed to obtain driver's licenses in New Hampshire. In complex immigration cases, even people who will ultimately obtain legal status often go without documentation for several years. Ask any judge or chief of police in Southern New Hampshire if the undocumented make up a majority of the driving without a license prosecutions.

Here is some of the language from the proposed law:

II. Any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state who had a valid license that was expired for 12 months or less shall be guilty of a violation and fined not more than $50 plus penalty assessment, provided that any person convicted of such offense for the second time in a 12 month period shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

IV. Any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state and who has never had a license or whose license to drive has been expired for more than 12 months shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

This language lets the lazy and/or oblivious "real Americans" off the hook for not renewing their license as long as it has been less than a year. However, if (because you are a non-citizen w/o legal status) you were never able to get a license -- regardless of your skill, or the care with which you drive -- you will be a criminal for committing the same act.

Was this an unintentional result of a bill passed for other reasons? Perhaps. However, this bill really does very little to prevent another Darriean Hess situation; it exempts many people who might be intentionally avoiding license requirements and ups the ante on an entire class of "others". People who had no role in the Hess incident and who have no way to comply with the law short of not driving to work, or driving their kids to school, or driving to the grocery store. In other words -- not living in New Hampshire, because without driving a car or having a chauffeur you cannot work and raise a family in New Hampshire.

So here I find myself, a Democrat, an immigration lawyer, stunned at the tunnel vision of my representatives and finding myself in accord with the likes of the most rabid of RWNJs on this issue. I now have to rely on the good sense of the NH Senate to stop this "feel good" legislation before it does way more harm than any good it will likely ever do. Never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could I have imagined that.

Drew Law Office, PLLC -- Immigration Attorneys, NH -- (603) 644-3739

No comments:

Post a Comment