Virginia is about to become the fourteenth state to pass legislation that grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. What can North Carolina learn from this process?
The Virginia General Assembly approved the
Licenses for All bills on (Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 1211).
As of the time this edition went to press, these bills were subject to a process of unification and subsequently were sent to the desk of Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who has expressed support for the legislation. If approved, it would take effect on .
In Virginia, proof of legal residency must be submitted in order to apply for a driver’s license. However, the new law would eliminate this requirement for obtaining an ID that grants driving privileges.
Driver’s Privilege Card program, people would have to pass a road test and a written test on driving laws, in addition to maintaining auto insurance. They also must have filed an income tax return.
How did the Virginia immigrant community push this legislation? There are two key factors: the pro-immigrant groups exerted firm pressure by being united, and the voters gradually elected a pro-immigrant General Assembly.
The Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights is a group comprised of 34 organizations that understood that working as a team can bring great changes.
These groups did not waste time with jealousy, internal rivalries, or socialist utopias; instead they worked together to exert constant pressure on the authorities, and they showed the advantages of granting this license.
Driver’s licenses for the undocumented will make the roads safer because drivers will receive driver’s education and they must have insurance.
Currently, 13 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico grant driver’s licenses to the undocumented. These states experienced a 30 decrease in traffic accident deaths, compared to a 20 national decrease, according to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.
This entity also assured that giving undocumented immigrants authorization to drive will generate between 11 and 18 million in revenue from vehicle registration, title, and license plate fees. It estimated that between 124,500 and 160,800 drivers would seek Virginia licenses within the first two years if immigration status was not a factor.
In the spring of in North Carolina, Republican Representative Harry Warren sponsored a bill that sought to give restricted driving permits to the undocumented. Sadly, a faction of pro-immigrant organizations– in search of political prominence and with unrealistic promises of unrestricted licenses– were the first to oppose this bill. Since then no other bill of this nature has been approved by a Legislative Assembly committee.
There is still a long way to go to unify social organizations. However, this year Latinos will have an opportunity to be counted in the Census, and they will be able to change history if they let their voice be heard through the vote.