May 1, 2007, - 10:43 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Can you get auto insurance without a driver’s license? Probably not. BUT ILLEGAL ALIENS NOW CAN.
Earlier this year, we all read the Wall Street Journal story about how Bank of America is targeting illegal aliens to expand its customer base. The company is giving credit cards to illegal aliens without a social security number–something you or I cannot get.
Well, now, it’s auto insurers. Today’s Wall Street Journal has a front-pager on Progressive Corp, Alliance United, Bristol West Holdings, and other auto insurers who are making a pretty penny insuring illegal aliens–even those WITHOUT driver’s licenses.
It’s just more of what Vladimir Lenin described when he said that the capitalists will “sell us the rope on which we will hang them.”
“We are exploding with growth,” proclaims Brian Duffy, chief executive of Alliance United, a Ventura, California auto insurer. Sure, it’s unfortunately legal to insure unlicensed drivers. But it is unethical. And unsafe, to boot.
Forget about fake driver’s licenses. Now, they don’t even need those for auto insurance. More:
Many states are cracking down on illegal immigrants by denying them driver’s licenses. But auto insurers are increasingly targeting those unlicensed drivers as a lucrative market.
For decades, many states with big immigrant populations, like California, routinely issued driver’s licenses to foreign citizens, regardless of their immigration status. But when those states and others began tightening up their requirements amid a backlash against illegal immigration, many illegal immigrants couldn’t renew their licenses — and their car insurance was automatically canceled.
Some auto insurers, however, were quick to see a golden opportunity. California law, for example, doesn’t bar companies from selling insurance to unlicensed motorists. So, insurers, including some major ones like Progressive Corp., are covering illegal-immigrant drivers, often charging them premiums above the normal market rate.
“When we figured out it was legal, and we weren’t going to get punished, we went into the market within a short while,” says Brian Duffy, chief executive of Alliance United, a closely held auto insurer based in Ventura, Calif. “We are exploding with growth.”
The situation is another example of how illegal immigration and the purchasing power of the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants are influencing public and private policy in sometimes contradictory ways. While some politicians and others complain that illegal immigrants place a burden on state and local resources, businesses ranging from banks to retailers are lining up to cater to them. . . .
Though driving without a valid license is illegal, it often goes unpunished if the driver’s car registration and insurance papers are in order.
Amid the national debate over immigration and security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a growing number of states started requiring applicants for driver’s licenses to show proof of lawful residence. States with large illegal-immigrant populations like Texas, California and Arizona don’t issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. In 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, citing security concerns, vetoed for the second time a measure passed by the state’s lawmakers to explicitly allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.
In Illinois, legislators are considering allowing people without Social Security numbers to obtain a driver’s certificate, a proposal that has polarized the state.
With the states getting more restrictive, some auto insurers have adopted new strategies. Realizing that many workers without licenses drive anyway, several auto insurers began allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire a policy on the strength of a foreign driver’s license — or even a foreign identification card.
Jeff Dailey, chief executive of publicly held insurer Bristol West Holdings Inc., which specializes in nonstandard, high-risk insurance, says that the “foreign driver” segment has proved to be “good business for us,” and has attracted multiple competitors. Mr. Dailey says sales agents for his company, which agreed last month to be acquired by Farmers Group Inc., accept a Mexican matricula consular card — an I.D. issued by the Mexican Consulate — from immigrants who don’t have a foreign driver’s license. . . .
Auto insurance is regulated by individual states, and most don’t require insurers to limit coverage to people with driver’s licenses. “We want everyone driving to have liability,” says a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance.
The practice of writing auto insurance for unlicensed drivers started with insurers like Alliance United, a small company focused mainly on nonstandard markets, like drivers with bad driving records. But larger insurers, such as Progressive and Infinity Property & Casualty Corp., which also write policies for high-risk drivers, are active in the business. Large mainstream insurance companies like State Farm Insurance Co., Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. and AAA typically require a state driver’s license.
“We want to insure all drivers who want to be insured; if the regulations in a state allow us to accept drivers with foreign driver’s licenses, we price those policies accurately and as the regulation allows and make a policy available to those drivers,” says Russina Sgoureva, product manager for Progressive’s agency business in California.
Calls to senior executives at Infinity, including President James R. Gober, weren’t returned.
Jose Catano, an independent agent in Southern California, runs Spanish-language radio spots to drum up business with illegal immigrants, using a slogan referring to Gov. Schwarzenegger: “Arnold won’t give you a license, but Catano will give you insurance.”
What makes illegal immigrants a particularly profitable market, he says, is that they rarely report small accidents — to avoid contact with U.S. authorities. “It’s very lucrative,” he adds. “We have good retention.” Earlier this month, Mr. Catano received approval to operate in Nevada and Arizona, both of which deny licenses to illegal immigrants.
One of Mr. Catano’s clients is Jose Rodriguez, a 32-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who drives a 2007 Honda Civic and pays $127 a month for insurance. “I feel much safer driving, knowing that I have insurance,” he says. “All my friends without papers are getting it.”
In his car, Mr. Rodriguez carries his auto registration and proof of insurance. On him, he carries a matricula consular card instead of a driver’s license.
“We are the DMV; we’re not ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” says a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. “It’s not our issue if you are in the country illegally. By law, you have to have insurance if you have a car.”
Nauseating. Who is this unnamed spokesman? Why didn’t Wall Street Journal reporter Miriam Jordan report this unpatriotic idiot’s name? E-mail and ask her.
This is just another example of how immigration “enforcement” is a joke. If enforcement were as tough as it should be, these illegal aliens wouldn’t be bragging–using their real names and locations–to the Wall Street Journal. They would be hiding in fear. Or even better, leaving in droves from the country, since they are violating the law by just being here.
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