GA!!3 United States General Accounthg Office Washington, D.C. 20548 General Government Division B-277578 September 5, 1997 The Honorable Elton Gahegly House of Representatives Subjee IUegaI Immigration: Information on Illegal Immigrants and Automobile Insurance in California Dear Mr. Gallegly On April 16, 1997, you asked us to conduct a study on the extent to which illegal immigrants operate motor vehicles in California without automobile insurance. Our prelim&ry work in response to this request indicated that the data necessary for us to answer your question were not available. Consequently, on June 19, 1997, we briefed your office on this development and discussed related information that we had gathered. Your office asked us to , inquire about whether the Criminal Alien Identification Pilot Program, established by the Immigration and Natmalization Service (INS) and the city of Anaheim, California, at the city’s detention facility to identify criminal aliens for potential deportation, had any information available on illegal immigrants driving without automobile insurance. Your office also asked us to summarize the results of all of our work in a letter to you. This letter responds to that request. To determine whether information was available on illegal aliens operating motor vehicles without automobile insurance, we (I) conducted literature searches and obtained data from published reports and (2) contacted key officials from various national, state, and nonprofit organizations, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the California Department of hxurance, and RAND.i We also visited and met with officials from the City of Anaheim’s detention facility. We performed this work from May through August 15, 1997. We did not obtain comments from the organizations we contacted because the limited work we did consisted primarily of presenting ‘RAND is a nonprofit institution providing research and analysis in many areas, including national defense, education and training, health care, criminal and civil justice, labor and population, science and technology, community development, international relations, and regional studies. 1 GAO/GGD-97-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurame j39 soy B-277578 factual information obtained from published reports and because we did not verify, analyze, or make recommendations about that information. RESULTS IN BRIEF We identified estimates of (1) US. illegal immigration, (2) California uninsured motorists, and (3) costs to Califotia consumers from uninsured motorists. We were, however, unable to find any information on the extent to which illegal immigrants in California were also uninsured motorists. At the Anaheim detention facility, we found that, while some criminal aliens in detention were charged with driving without automobile insurance, the officials did not know whether other illegal aliens who drove had insurance. Consequently, data were not available to show the percentage of iRegaI immigrants in Cal.ifomia who did not have automobile insurance. . ESTRKATES OF THE UNFTED STATES’ ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT POPULATION According to INS estimates,2 the illegal resident population3 in the United States as of October 1996 was 5 million, representing roughly 1.9 percent of the total U.S. population. INS believes that more than 80 percent of the illegal residents have settled in the seven states that traditionally have had the largest immigrant populations: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona In addition, INS estimated that 2 milhon illegal residents, or 40 percent of the current estimated illegal resident population, live in California. i Also according to INS,4 as of October 1996, 6.3 percent of California’s population consisted of’illegal immigrants. The estimated growth in California’s illegal resident population was about 100,000persons each year during the current decade. ?J.S. Department of Justice, INS Office of Public Affairs, “INS Releases Updated Estimates of U.S. Illegal Population” (news release, Feb. 7, 1997). “The INS estimates refer to the population of immigrants who have established residence in the United States by remaining in the country for more than 12 months in an illegal status. ‘U.S. Department of Justice, INS Office of Policy and Planning, “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: October 1996,” Backsounder (INS Oflice of Public Affairs, Jan. 1997). 2 GAOIGGD-9?-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurance B-277578 ESTIMATES OF CALIFORNIA’S PERCENTAGE OF UNINSURED MOTORISTS AND THE RELATED ESTIMATED COSTS TO CALIFORNIA CONSUMERS The State of California Insurance Commissi oner reported in April 1997 that at least 25 percent of California drivers, or an estimated 4 million motorists, were uninsured.5 He also reported6 that an estimated 37 percent of the drivers in Los Angeles County, and more than two-thirds of the drivers in low-income communities, drive without insurance. In 1995, a California Department of Insurance report’ estimated the percentage of uninsured motorists for 157 “underserved” communities.8 These communities were arrayed by zip code, with city and county as part of the identifier. Of these 157 zip codes, 75 were in Los Angeles County. The report also estimated that one zip code area (San Ysidro, in San Diego County) had a 98 percent uninsured motorist rate, the highest rate for the 157 zip code areas included in the report Two Los Angeles County zip code areas were also estimated as having uninsured motorist rates exceeding 90 percent The California Department of Motor Vehicles’ Research and Development Section and the Division of Program and Policy Administration issued a report in 1991’ that included information on the costs incurred by insured motorists as a result of accidents caused by uninsured motorists. For example, the report showed that the total cost to insured motorists for accidents caused by uninsured motorists was - estimated to be $2.07 billion in 1988 and $2.37 billion in 1989. In addition, the average annual cost per insured motorist, resulting from other motorists being umnsured, was estimated to’be $145 in 1988 and $159 in 1989. “California Department of Insurance, “Commissioner Quackenbush Holds a Hearing in Los Angeles on Ways to Make Auto Insurance More Affordable to Uninsured Mototits in California,” Press Release #27 (Apr. 17, 1997). ?Xifornia Department of Insurance, Press Release: “1995 Year End Report.” ?The California Department of Insurance Statistical Analysis Bureau, Commissioner’s Reuort on Underserved Communities meuorting Year 1995) (Feb. 1995). ‘An “underserved” community was defined in the state insurance code as a zip code where (1) the proportion of uninsured motorists was 10 percentage points or more above the statewide average-about 28 percent, (2) the per capita income of the community was below the 50th percentile for California-about $14,000,and (3) the community was predominately minority (composed of 67 percent or more minorities)- the statewide average was about 43 percent. gUninsured Motorists: Their Rate and.Cost to Insured Motorists, Final Report to the Legislature of the State of California (Dec. 1991). 3 GAO/GGD-97-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurance B-277578 ESTIMATES OF THE NUMBER OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS OPERATING MOTOR VEHICLES WITHOUT INSURANCE WERE NOT AVAILABLE The National Highway Traffic Safety AdmmWrationlo collects data from a nationally representative sample of police-reported motor vehicle crashes of all types, from -minor to fataL However, the data collected do not include information on whether motorists were licensed, insured, or legally in the United States. According to a Califomia Department of Motor Vehicles official, as of March 1, 1994, the Department began requiring applicants for original California drivers’ licenses and identification cards to show proof of legal presence” in the United States. The official also told us, however, that the Department does not track or record any information on the number of persons who were not issued drivers’ licenses because they failed to prove legal presence in the United States. According to the Acting Chief, Statistical Analysis Bureau, California Department of Insurance, the Department does not collect or have any information on the legal residence status of drivers in California Similarly, according to the Director of Research, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 1.2the Association has no information on illegal immigrants driving without automobile insurance. Further, he said that he was unaware of any other organization that would possess data on the number of illegal immigmnts driving without automobile insurance. According to the California Highway Patrol’s Public Information officer, as of January 1, 1997, under a new law,13the California Highway Patrol began collecting data on whether mot&& cited for traf& violations could show proof of automobile liability “As part of its duties, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is under the Department of Transportation, conducts research on driver behavior and traf& safety to develop the most efficient and effective means of bringing about safety improvements. “‘Acceptable legal presence documents can jnclude INS documents or other documents with an INS notation to prove legal presence in the United States. Documents must be legible and unaltered to establish proof of the person’s legal presence in the United States. %ITheNational Association of Insurance Commissioners is an organization of insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the 4 U.S. territories. 13SeeState of California Department of Motor Vehicles, “AB 650 Vehicle Insurance Law Changes Go into Effect January I,” News Release #25 (Dec. 18, 1996). Under provisions of California’s mandatory vehicle liability insurance law, motorists must show evidence that they have liability insurance to a peace officer if they are stopped for a traffic violation. In addition, the law requires motorists to file evidence of liability insurance coverage when they renew their vehicle registration. 4 GAO/GGD-97-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurance B-277578 insurance. In addition, the California Highway Patrol has been collecting data for a . number of years on whether motorists had valid drivers’ licenses when cited for traffic violations. However, the California Highway Patrol does not collect any information on motorists’ legal residency status. According to the Director of RAND’s Center for Research on Jmmigration Policy, RAND has never issued a report or done a study that has attempted to identify the extent to which illegal immigrants in California were also uninsured motorists. Further, he said that he was not aware of any other organization that had attempted to do this kind of study. CITY OF ANAHEIM AND INS ALIEN IDENTIFICATION PILOT PROGRAM The City of Anaheim and INS entered into a pilot program to identify illegal aliens in the city’s detention facility..” According to City police officials, their police officers administer a survey to identify arrestees considered to be “most likely in the country illegally.” INS assigned an agent to the city detention facility to determine the immigration status of arrestees and detain illegal aliens for transfer to INS custody. We visited the Anaheim detention facihIy and reviewed files for illegal aliens arrested for trafk violations between July 22 and July 31, 1997, to determine whether any were also uninsured motorists. We found that, of the 11 illegal aliens who had been . arrested during that period for traffic violations, 3 were charged with not having automobile msurance. The remaining eight offenders were not charged with being uninsured, and their records did not contain any mention of the presence or absence of automobile insurance. A Senior Detention Ofker told us that, although some illegal aliens arrested for trafhc violations are charged with being uninsured, he could not be certain whether others arrested for similar violations had insurance or not. As we arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this letter until 10 days after its issue date. We will then make copies available to others upon request ?‘he program was specifically authorized by section 329 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, P.L. 104208. 5 GAO/GGD-97-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurance EL277578 Please contact Darryl W. Dutton of my staff on (213) 830-1086 or me on (202) 512-3610 if you or your staff have any questions. Other major contributors to this letter were Sam Caldrone, Brian Lipman, and David Alexander. Sincerely yours, . Norman J. R&kin Director, AdnMstration of Justice Issues (183616) 6 GAO/GGD-97-172R Illegal Immigrants and Auto Insurance Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is fiee. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent ofDocuments, when necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are ‘discounted 25 percent. Orders by mail: U.S. General Account& Office P.O. Box 37050 Washington, DC 20013 or visit: Boom 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW) U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000 or by using fZtx number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537. 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Illegal Immigration: Information on Illegal Immigrants and Automobile Insurance in California
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-05.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)