One of the biggest sticking points in conservative circles is that undocumented individuals have no accountability. Although this is a verifiably false statement, it does make sense to ask undocumented immigrants to obey the same laws and rules as the rest of us. The Pennsylvania organization “Driving PA Forward” would like to see Pennsylvania House Bill 279 passed into law. The bill would extend the right to a drivers license to some undocumented individuals.
An anonymous lawyer for the Law Office of Robert Freeman explained that similar programs in other states work: “Ultimately, pilot programs aimed at giving undocumented individuals access to drivers licenses makes our roads safer and allows them to acquire insurance — which reduces the impact of insurance rate hikes for the rest of us. Most undocumented workers in states across the country have to break the law to drive to work. That gives anti-immigration groups the ammo they need to call all undocumented individuals ‘criminals.’”
The purpose of the law is the “passage of legislation regarding accessibility of a standard driver’s license with strict privacy and data protections for all Pennsylvanians regardless of immigration status.”
H.B. 279 would nix the current portion of the law that requires individuals to show proof of lawful status to be eligible for a license.
Other advocates of similar programs in other states say that the push could even reduce the current supply chain shortages.
President Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council wrote, “Immigration reform can help the Wisconsin economy at a time when the demographics of an aging society are chipping away at the state’s workforce, from its kitchens, farms and resorts to its research laboratories and tech companies.”
Currently 16 states and Washington D.C. allow undocumented individuals to apply and receive drivers licenses regardless of legal status: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
Undocumented individuals still need to work to fulfill basic needs, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that at least 30 percent of jobs in the United States require a private vehicle. Undocumented individuals should be allowed to fill about 30 percent of the available jobs in the United States, and it should not be made more difficult than it already is.
Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera said, “The absence of driver’s licenses for undocumented workers at the state level impacts the construction industry.”
According to HousingWire, the “construction worker shortage has reached ‘crisis’ levels with there being currently 300,000 to 400,000 open construction positions on a monthly basis.”
Currently, Wisconsin is home to around 32,000 people who are ineligible to receive a license because of legal status. Other states are home to many more.
Republicans have long argued against these measures, contending that undocumented workers would have an easier time voting illegally with valid identification — even though our system makes this near-impossible.