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The Issue of Driver's Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

Throughout the years, many arguments have been made for and against allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. Restrictions are on the rise, used as a way to police immigrant communities and restrict their rights. Popular immigrant destinations like the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States are establishing contrasting policies.

In many states in the US, people are allowed to apply for a driver’s license regardless of their immigrant status. In May 2021, Michigan democrats introduced the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) Acts. They proposed to create a new category of driver’s licenses and ID cards for people who do not have legal immigrant status. It would provide other identification options such as foreign passports or marriage certificates. Around 16 states in the US currently allow illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, with more states in the process of allowing it. Massachusetts legislators recently overrode a veto from Governor Charlie Baker and passed a law allowing all illegal immigrants access to driver’s licenses starting in July 2023. This was supported by various immigration rights advocates and insurance companies, who were overjoyed by the bill’s passing.

Immigration rights advocates celebrate in the state Senate chamber, Photo Creds: Boston Globe, David L. Ryan

Bill sponsor Senator Brendan P. Crighton stated that the law would increase road safety since all drivers will have to take a test and will have access to car insurance, meaning citizens should support it as it will be a safer environment for them too. However, there are still various people against the law who are expressing concern about the implications of the law. Massachusetts Senate minority leader Bruce E. Tarr voted against the override of the Governor’s veto and argued that these immigrants might use their driver’s licenses to illegally vote, thwarting the credibility of the voting process. Additionally, a public poll concluded that only 46% of citizens supported the bill, with 47% opposing and 7% unsure, meaning less than half of the state was represented in the decision to pass the bill.

On the other hand, the UK is focusing on catching immigrants who have illegally obtained a driver's license. In July 2014, the UK Home Department gave the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency the authority to take away licenses, and over 3,500 licenses were revoked in just that first month. These measures were set in place to prevent illegal immigrants from getting jobs, signing rental agreements, and accessing other citizen privileges. After revoking their license, the procedure states that they will face arrest by immigration officials and will possibly be sent back to their native country and will have to face the very dangers they were escaping from.

The need for a standardized policy allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses around the world is becoming increasingly important. Not only would it ensure safe driving conditions as people would have to pass a driving test and have car insurance, but it would also ensure the safety of immigrants who have not yet gained legal immigrant status.



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