Cheh Advances a Bill to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Driver’s Licenses

Cheh says bill will reduce the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorist on the roads

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment advanced a measure authored by committee Chair, Councilmember Mary Cheh that will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s licenses. The legislation both protects District drivers by encouraging all residents to get a license and ensures that the local government does not penalize our undocumented neighbors.

“Driving your children to school, getting groceries, applying for a job, or renting an apartment are all activities that require a driver’s license or state-issued identification card,” said Cheh. “But, at the moment, many of the undocumented residents living in the District are unable to participate in these routine activities, simply because they are unable to prove their legal status. Furthermore, by keeping undocumented residents proving their ability to drive safety on District roads, we jeopardize all drivers’ safety.”

Cheh’s legislation would allow any District resident who cannot prove their lawful presence in the United States to obtain a driver’s license or identification card by presenting an unexpired foreign passport or foreign birth certificate. The legislation also includes appropriate safeguards such as requiring the resident to have lived in the District longer than six months and to obtain a federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, as many as 15,000 undocumented immigrants would be eligible for a driver’s license or identification card under Cheh’s legislation. Nine states currently offer or have passed legislation to offer driver’s licenses/IDs to undocumented residents.

“The current environment places undocumented immigrants in very challenging situations where they have to decide between driving illegally or going without basic necessities,” said Cheh. “My legislation encourages our undocumented residents to come out the shadows and participate fully in all that the city has to offer while promoting safety and access for all.”

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