By: Allan Siegel
The D.C. Council is awaiting a vote, currently set for mid November, on
the issue of illegal immigrants legally obtaining drivers' licenses.
If the law is passed, then illegal immigrants could begin applying for
driver's licenses as early as 2014. The function of these licenses
would be for driving purposes only, and not for boarding airplanes or
receiving benefits. The Council is pushing for this new law in an effort
to make the roadways of D.C. safer. The Council members explain that if
illegal immigrants have driver's licenses, then they can legally obtain
At the moment, many illegal immigrants involved in car accidents flee the
scene because they are afraid of deportation or because they do not have
car insurance. This law would make it more likely for an illegal immigrant
involved in an accident to remain at the scene, either because they were
hurt and need medical attention or because they need to exchange insurance
information. The proposed law, however, has received major backlash and
still has issues to resolve concerning its implementation.
One of the lingering issues is how to classify these licenses. The Department
of Homeland Security has made it clear to the D.C. Council that these
licenses need to be distinguished from the licenses of U.S. citizens,
possibly by a stamp stating "not valid for official federal purposes"
or by having a different color border. Many advocates for illegal immigrants
have spoken up to say that differentiating the license in this manner
will mark the user with a scarlet letter and would instantly identify
them for deportation. Also, similar to the fears of the Dream Act, many
illegal immigrants are afraid that once they officially and publicly register
their status as illegal, that their futures may be in jeopardy depending
on the changing political climate. On the other hand, critics of the law
are unhappy with the possibility of illegal immigrants being granted the
driving privileges enjoyed by citizens.
This is a very difficult situation for the D.C. Council to resolve, but
at the very least their aim to make the roadways of D.C. safer should
be appreciated. What are your thoughts on this proposed law? Tell us in
the comments below or on our