Phil Bredesen’s Illegal Alien Driving Certificate Problem

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) threw a well-aimed punch at former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s glass jaw earlier this month, criticizing him for his role in pushing the Tennessee General Assembly to pass his ill-advised illegal alien driving certificate program, which he signed into law in 2004 and made Tennessee a magnet for illegal aliens.

The program, which Bredesen touted originally as a “common sense solution” was such an unmitigated disaster, he was forced to end it in 2006.

Bredesen’s 2018 campaign team, with the help of a compliant and uninquisitive mainstream media in Tennessee, has attempted to spin his way out of culpability for this serious debacle, but The Tennessee Star has prepared this synopsis of the facts that sets the record straight.

Former Republican Governor Don Sundquist sent a number of very bad policy proposals to the Tennessee General Assembly during the two terms he served between 1995 and 2003.

One of them continues to reverberate throughout the 2018 statewide elections, playing a role in both the U.S. Senate general election between Bredesen, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Marsha Blackburn, the presumptive Republican nominee, and the increasingly bitter GOP gubernatorial primary contest between front runners Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd.

Sundquist’s worst proposal–the establishment of a state income tax–was defeated in a horn-honking rebellion led by talk show hosts Steve Gill and Phil Valentine, and stalwart Republicans serving in the Tennessee General Assembly at the time, including  Blackburn, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06), and former State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).

Tennesseans did not fare so well when another of his bad proposals, SB1266/HB983–which allowed illegal aliens to obtain a Tennessee Drivers License without a valid Social Security number–which he signed into law after it was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2001.

Marsha Blackburn, a state senator in 2001, voted against the bill. Diane Black, a state representative in 2001, voted for the bill.

That bad law made the state of Tennessee a magnet for illegal aliens.

When Democrat Phil Bredesen was inaugurated in 2003, he continued support for the law until 2004, when he introduced a legislative proposal to the Tennessee General Assembly that he called at the time “a common sense solution” to the issue of illegal aliens driving in the state.

Under Bredesen’s proposal, SB3430/HB3486, which the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed in 2004 and Bredesen signed into law, Bredesen made a semantic change in what illegal aliens were allowed to obtain–it was no longer a drivers’ license, it was called a driving “certificate,” and could not, in theory, be used for identification purposes.

In practice, however, his own administration treated the illegal alien driving “certificates” for identification purposes.

Marsha Blackburn was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, and was no longer serving in the Tennessee General Assembly when that Bredesen-backed illegal alien driving certificate bill was voted on. Diane Black, however, was still a state representative, and she joined the vast majority of her colleagues in voting for the bill.

“Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen on Thursday introduced legislation that will end the practice of issuing state drivers’ licenses to undocumented persons,” the Nashville Post reported in February 2004:

In a release, Bredesen stated “It is clear to me that we need to make some changes, and what I’m proposing is a moderate, common-sense solution that balances homeland security concerns with public safety concerns in a responsible way.”

Under the proposal, immigrants legally in the United States could be issued a Tennessee driver’s license that would be valid during the period of time they are authorized to live in the U.S. If there is no definite end to the time of their stay, the driver’s license will be valid for one year only. Immigrants who cannot establish legal presence in the U.S. would become eligible for a new “certificate for driving” clearly distinguishable from a driver’s license. On the new card it would state prominently that the card had been issued for driving purposes only and not for identification purposes. The new cards would expire annually.

Bredesen is also proposing that Tennessee now offer driver’s tests in multiple languages and also that an ombudsmen position be created within the department of safety to trouble-shoot other issues unique to new Americans.

Bredesen signed his new illegal alien driving certificate program into law in June 2004, but its fatal flaws soon became apparent.

“Tennessee’s answer is the certificate for driving, which is being distributed to drivers who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent legal residents in the United States. Legal immigrants on temporary student and work visas will receive the certificate as will illegal immigrants,” the Baltimore Sun reported:

But nearly a month after Tennessee began distributing the new card, few people are cheering the compromise. Advocates for immigrants contend that the certificates mark its holders as inferior in the eyes of the state; anti-immigration lawmakers have the opposite view — that the cards give illegal immigrants legitimacy they should not have.

With about 1,200 of the cards issued, many Tennesseans are confused: Will the card be of use when cashing a check, or renting a video, or renting a car? When a police officer pulls a driver over and is shown the driving certificate, can he arrest the holder for failing to show a proper ID? If the card is not identification, what is it?

“This is a disaster, potentially,” said Tyler Moran, an analyst with the National Immigration Law Center, which advocates for the rights of immigrants. “I really think it’s created a bit of a mess.”

For once, Moran is in agreement with state Rep. Donna Rowland, a conservative Republican from Rutherford County. Rowland said she would “absolutely not” advise other states to follow Tennessee’s lead.

“I hope states learn from our mistakes,” she said. “The certificate of driving will become exactly what the driver’s license has become, which is a de facto national ID.”

Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill points out that “nobody seriously believed that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants were flooding into the driver’s license centers across Tennessee to get “certificates” that were not to be used for identification simply because they were desperate to learn the “rules of the road” and drive better. They were looking for ID cards — and they got them.”

“It is also disingenuous for anybody to claim that the driver’s licenses issued by Tennessee to those without social security numbers or other legitimate government issues identification was not intended to put driver’s licenses into the hands of illegals. It is exactly what activists applauded at the time…until driver’s licenses issued under similar laws were issued in Virginia, Florida and New Jersey that terrorists used on 9-11 to board airplanes they used to kill thousands of Americans,” Gill notes.

Bredesen’s “common-sense” solution turned out to be anything but.

“Not wanting to strip licenses from immigrants who currently hold them, the governor approved a second tier of state licensing, creating the certificate. Bredesen, who considers the new law the strictest in the country, knew he risked displeasing many factions in the immigration debate, [Bredesen’s communications director Bob] Corney said,” the Sun reported.

By the beginning of the 2005 legislative session, Black, recently elected to the Tennessee State Senate, realized that the Bredesen-backed illegal alien driving certificate program she had voted for the previous year was a disaster, and she co-sponsored a bill, SB3123/HB2903, to end the illegal alien driving certificate program. The bill passed in the Tennessee Senate, but was blocked in the Tennessee House.

That same year, even the liberal New York Times knew Bredesen’s illegal alien driving certificate program was a debacle.

“From 1990 to 2000, the state’s Hispanic population nearly quadrupled to 124,000, according to census records. Since July 1 [2004], when the certificate program was instituted, more than 21,000 have been issued,” the Times reported ten months later in May 2005.

“Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office said the certificates made the state’s driver’s license policy ‘the toughest in the nation.’ But in fact, Tennessee is one of only 12 states that do not require proof of legal residence to drive legally, according to the National Immigration Law Center,” the Times noted.

By 2006, the program had become such an obvious magnet for illegal aliens coming into the state, along with the associated national security risk, that Bredesen was forced to end the program that he had only two years earlier touted as “a common sense solution.”

“However, in 2006, Tennessee ended its policy of issuing ‘driving certificates’ after the governor’s office was informed that immigrants were traveling from other states to get the certificates using forged documents,” the Johnson City Press reported:

“At this point it just seems that we’ve got this very … serious problem, and we really felt that the appropriate thing to do was to suspend this program,” Bob Corney, then-spokesman for Gov. Bredesen, told the Los Angeles Times.









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12 Thoughts to “Phil Bredesen’s Illegal Alien Driving Certificate Problem”

  1. Robert Breneman

    Left, right, democrat, republican, radical, etc. Undocumented drivers need a legal way to drive. We need to determine as a state that a driver has the skill set to drive on our highways. Due to the massive incompetency of Congress we are left with the pieces of a broken system. Can you not print on the document “Not valid for any other reason than driving?” Do you or i want someone with poor driving skills to be on the road? Wouldn’t the revenue be useful to restore services used by non payers? Do we not know they buy social security numbers from illegal sources? If you trap thousands of people who want to provide for their families’ they will find a way. And, it might be a way that less desirable than just providing a permit.

  2. […] the campaign, Blackburn has criticized Bredesen for his role as governor in pushing the Tennessee General Assembly to pass his illegal […]

  3. Christopher Hopkins

    Hey stupid people, the law was passed in 2001.

    Don Sundquist was Governor when that bill was passed into law. Funny didn’t Sundquist just endorse Marsha? Tennessee was issuing these licenses for two years before Bredesen entered office. He filed a bill shortly after becoming governor that stopped the practice.

  4. Gail

    Oh yeah….VOTING RED. This isn’t the only thing Bredesen did against the people of Tennessee. Put this liar in D.C…..NEVER!!!!!

  5. […] In 2005, Bredesen’s driving certificate program made Tennessee a magnet for illegal aliens as The Tennessee Star has previously reported: […]

  6. Carol Basch

    Please pay attention people of Tennessee. We moved here to escape the liberal hell hole of California after Governor Brown opened the borders and invited all to come into the country legal or illegal. There are millions of them all over California now, collecting welfare and free healthcare, food stamps and free breakfast, lunch and dinner even in the summertime at parks, paid for by taxing the citizens. The illegals are flying their flags and stomping and burning the United States flag. They are yelling in the citizen taxpayers faces that they can’t do anything about it and giving them the finger. Their children are pampered and treated better than citizens children. They have priority in jobs, education and scholarships. The legislature is run by them. The democrats want more of them in our country for more votes for themselves. Senator Kevin DeLeon said half of his family are illegals and he wants Illegals to be able to vote and have the same rights as citizens but in reality illegals have more rights. They can’t be detained and if they are in jail when they are released the feds can’t arrest them because California has passed the sanctuary state law. Yes they are protected from deportation or arrest by the feds. They are given all of this while there is a terrible homeless problem and veterans are also homeless and can’t get healthcare. While illegals are put up in large buildings somewhat like hotels once they cross the border and they never have to go back where they came from. I’m telling you just the tip of the iceberg. But you do not want your beautiful state to go don to the dirty diseased place that California has. Whatever you do vote for conservatives and get the illegals out of a Tennessee if there is anyway possible. It’s just frightening what has happened in California.

  7. Bob

    Phil Bredesen would be a disaster for Tn. Crying Chuck has a stick up Phil Bredesens; butt.

  8. Looks like Marsha has a legitimate point to use against Phillary! As if his donations to Hillary aren’t enough. But Diane Black is also culpable since she voted to give drivers licenses to illegals in 2001! Curious to see how the Black supporters spin this since most of them also support Marsha! Even if you don’t hold the certificate vote against her there is no good excuse for voting to magnetize our state in 2001!

  9. lb

    Not only that he is lying about employment in TN. I hope Diane rips him with some vicious ads telling the truth. That being said, I was hoping for a little more recognition from PDT last night. At least that weasel la raza randy didnt get a recognization. The LRR ads are nauseating and clearly intended to lie about his true inclinations on illegals.
    He needs to be exposed too.

  10. Wolf Woman

    At 75 years old, Phil Bredesen should retire and get out of our hair. Instead, here he is, dusting our shoulders like a bad case of dandruff.

  11. Kevin

    I believe the phase is “hoist(ed) by your own petard”. Diane Black says now, that she voted for the illegal alien driving certificates as a way to stop illegals from getting driver licenses, until Republicans took control of the Legislature. But when she realized that it was “a disaster” she tried to repeal it. REALLY! As a US Representative, did she vote for all of those trillion dollar deficit Omnibus spending Bills to prevent two trillion dollar deficits, until Republicans took control? Well, Republicans have control of the entire Federal government. Has she done anything to give us back all of our money? Crickets!

    I’m sick and tired of these two faced politicians and the last thing we need to do is to give DB a promotion to Governor!

  12. Donna Locke

    Since Democrats controlled the legislature then, many of us saw the best tactic would be for the Republicans to vote for the Bredesen driving certificates in order to at least stop the regular driver’s licenses illegal aliens had been getting since that DL law was passed in 2001 under Sundquist (at the urging of the Farm Bureau and certain others). The best plan, as we saw it, was to vote for the driving certificates in order to stop the regular DLs for illegal aliens, then keep working for a Republican majority and end the certificates as well.

    As it was, Bredesen ended his driving certificates after national publicity about the massive fraud and questionable foreign involvement associated with them and the previous regular driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, who had been told by their handlers to show up at DL testing centers and say “No Social.” No Social Security number, no problem. Never mind that they couldn’t read road signs.

    Even after the DL fiasco was ended by law, the previously issued licenses and certificates were valid for years after, until they expired.

    Don’t fault most of the Republicans who voted for the Bredesen driving certificates. They knew they couldn’t get full repeal of the licenses and felt the certificates would at least take things down a step from the regular driver’s licenses until the Republicans could gain control of the legislature. Donna Rowland, Marsha Blackburn, Mae Beavers, and Diane Black could not get their full-repeal bills passed in the Democratic-controlled legislature.