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 car insurance.
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 facebook page.