Foreigners Find Obstacles to Texas License

Some say getting a driver's license in the United States is almost as easy as getting a receipt at the local grocery store.

The state of Texas is trying to change that, at least when it comes to foreigners.

"We want to make sure that it remains a document everyone can depend on," said Tela Mange, a spokesman for the state's motor vehicle office.

Officials have noted that 12 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers carried U.S. driver's licenses. That made it easy for them to board the airplanes, since the licenses are an accepted form of identification.

But now Texas is considering requiring foreigners who apply for licenses to provide identification issued by the U.S. government. That's documentation most immigrants don't have, making it virtually impossible to obtain a license.

An exemption in the plan would be made for Canadians, but not Mexicans. And that has some in the state crying racism.

"The U.S. has a history of discriminating against nations of color, and that's been documented," said Vincent Ramos, executive director of Texas League of United Latin American Citizens. "It's not a new concept, and this is just another example of that."

Then there are the police officers who worry immigrants left without driver's licenses will take to the roads anyway, without the benefit of really learning how to drive.

"You're going to have a whole segment of people out there on our roadways with our families, wives, daughters driving that don't understand or are not familiar with our state laws and that is a scary thought," said Rudy Landeros of the Austin Police Department.

That is scary to some. But others say it is far scarier to give non-citizens easy access to government licenses, particularly after Sept. 11.

"It's a public safety issue, a national security issue and a community safety issue," said Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "It's short sighted to just look a this as a question of drivers' safety. There's a whole vital national security interest at stake and we've got to take a broader view."

Fox News' Douglas Kennedy contributed to this report