The Connecticut Senate [official website] approved legislation [HB 6495] Thursday that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of documentation status. If signed by Governor Dannel Malloy [official website], the bill would allow those immigrants without proper documents from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office [official website] the ability to obtain a driver’s license for the purpose of highway safety. Applicants would have to prove identity with a passport or other document and show that they had been living in Connecticut for at least 90 days, but would not need to show permission from the US to be in the country. Senator Art Linares and fellow opponents to the bill noted the lack of infrastructure [press release] established to verify immigrants’ identities using the approved foreign documents. Senator Martin Looney summarized the debate [press release] between pragmatism and immigration concerns as follows:
This is an important public safety measure that ensures drivers on the road possess the necessary qualifications and insurance. … The need to earn a living does not vanish just because a person does not have the appropriate immigration credentials. Not only is driving itself illegal for them, but without a legal license, these drivers cannot purchase the required insurance.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 74-55, and will go to the governor for approval next week.
Similar laws have already passed in Maryland and California [JURIST reports]. Opponents to the Connecticut bill focused on the federal government’s evolving immigration policies that they argued would make this measure unnecessary. One such act is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration reform bill [JURIST report], which creates a 13-year path to citizenship for the same group of undocumented immigrants. Similar laws [JURIST backgrounder] around the country have developed at the state levels over the past year to lessen the burden of obtaining documentation, especially for students who are the children of undocumented immigrants.