As nearly ten thousand illegal aliens march through Mexico towards the U.S. border the issue of illegal immigration has resurfaced as a major campaign issue in the 2018 midterm elections. In Tennessee, that means former Governor Phil Bredesen’s issuance of drivers licenses/certificates to illegals is being used by the Marsha Blackburn campaign and her allies to remind voters of Bredesen’s misstep on the issue. A new “Golden Ticket” mail piece hitting mailboxes this week underscores Bredesen’s weakness on the issue of illegal immigration.
In May, 2001 the Tennessee legislature approved issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens at the behest of Republican Governor Don Sundquist, despite strong opposition from many conservatives, including then State Senator Marsha Blackburn. After 9-11 later that year, the fact that several of the hijackers used similarly issued licenses to board airplanes raised additional concerns. So in 2002 the Tennessee legislature passed legislation requiring licenses issued to illegals to carry bold print stating “For Driving Purposes Only.”
By 2004 Bredesen was Governor and he successfully pushed legislation to issue “certificates” rather than “licenses” to illegals and restrictions were supposedly put in place to limit the use of the certificates for “identification purposes.” Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that the “certificates” were being treated as identification by Tennessee law enforcement personnel and in 2006 the legislature dumped the whole effort.
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. “Making the semantic change from ‘license’ to ‘certificate’ did not address the problem.”
Diane Black faced tough criticism and harsh attacks over her voter in support of issuing drivers’ licenses to illegals during the GOP Primary campaign for Governor earlier this year. Now Bredesen is in the hot seat over the same issue.
“The visuals of the mob of migrants marching towards the U.S. doesn’t help Bredesen at all,” Gill said. “And as they get closer to the border the issue will increase in intensity. Bredesen hasn’t made any significant statement on how we should deal with this illegal immigrant invasion, and has made it clear he opposes Trump’s Wall. By not distancing himself from the abolish ICE, sanctuary cities and block the Wall wing of the Democratic Party he hardly looks like the moderate, centrist he claims to be.”