Pennsylvania lawmakers have put forward a largely partisan bill that would grant drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens.
Sponsored by 27 House Democrats and 2 Republicans, House Bill 279 is currently pending in the House Transportation Committee. The bill would let people without a Social Security number, including those living in the United States illegally, obtain a driver’s license or a learner’s permit.
“In today’s fast-paced world, a driver’s license is essential to earn a living, travel safely, and live a dignified existence,” the sponsors wrote in a January memo.
The bill amends current state law to allow people without a Social Security number to apply for a driver’s license or learner’s permit using such alternatives as a federal taxpayer identification number, foreign passport, consular identification document, or birth certificate.
“Unfortunately, countless undocumented persons are unable to apply for a driver’s license in Pennsylvania because they do not have the required Social Security number,” the lawmakers wrote. “As a result, they contribute to our economy without the equal protections and basic rights that the rest of us enjoy, such as the ability to drive safely to work, school, and businesses.”
The co-sponsors argue that, since a road test is required to receive a license, passage of the bill will make roads safer by reducing the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the roads. Illegal immigrants who obtain licenses will also be more inclined to report accidents and cooperate with police, they argue.
Thais Carrero, the Pennsylvania director of immigrant advocacy group CASA, which is one of a dozen groups in the state that supports the bill, told local outlet WGAL that she believes illegal immigrants should be allowed to legally drive.
“It’s about folks being able to move around, have a meaningful job, be able to take care of themselves and their families, so we just continue pushing until we get this legislation passed,” she said.
Meanwhile, Republican senators recently introduced legislation that would block certain federal funds flowing to states that allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said on Jan. 28 that she and a number of other GOP senators, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), have introduced the Stop Greenlighting Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants Act. The bill targets sanctuary states that allow immigrants to get driver’s licenses without proof that they legally reside in the United States.
“No town in America is secure from criminals and terrorists if our borders aren’t policed and federal immigration laws aren’t fully enforced,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This country is governed by the rule of law. We should not reward illegal aliens with driver licenses when they fail to follow the proper legal process.”
The act halts Department of Justice grant funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to states that defy federal immigration law.
Blackburn said that in the fiscal year 2020, states that issued driver licenses to illegal aliens received more than $53 million from the JAG program.
“This law will require states that issue driver licenses to illegal aliens or states that fail to share immigration enforcement information with the DHS to return unallocated funds to the JAG program within 30 days,” she said.
It would also make states that don’t comply with the driver’s license and federal information-sharing provisions ineligible to receive future JAG funds.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.