D.C. bill would allow undocumented workers to obtain drivers licenses

(AP/ABC7 -Undocumented immigrants would be able to get driver's licenses in D.C. under a bill that Mayor Vincent Gray introduced Thursday afternoon.

The bill would allow district residents to obtain a license or a city identification card regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

“This legislation is the right thing to do for our undocumented residents and our entire community,”Gray said, according to a prepared statement. “With this legislation, undocumented District residents will be able to obtain a driver’s license by submitting the proper documentation and taking the same tests the DMV requires of all drivers."

He said the bill will make streets safer and take away incentives for illegal driver's licenses.{ }

To obtain a license, undocumented immigrants must show that they’ve lived here for six months, be able to obtain a social security card and a tax identification number, be unable to present proper documentation and submit an unexpired passport from their home country.

Five states allow people who don't have legal permission to live in the United States to obtain driver's licenses: Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Washington state and, most recently, Oregon, whose governor signed a bill Wednesday in conjunction with rallies around the country in support of immigration reform. Colorado and North Carolina are among the states considering similar legislation.

Norton, who supports the measure, said it was important for public safety.

"Maryland is protecting D.C. residents by licensing its undocumented immigrants, not just protecting its own residents," she said. "Meanwhile, we're doing nothing to protect either our residents or the residents of any other states that our own residents who are undocumented may drive to."

Gray declined to comment on the proposal ahead of Thursday's planned news conference.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Council considered a bill that would drop the requirement that people provide a Social Security number to get a driver's license. But Councilmember Mary Cheh said the mayor's proposal appeared to be more comprehensive and in line with changes she wanted to make to that bill.

The new proposal, Cheh said, would create a second-class license for people who are not in the country legally, similar to what Maryland has done, in order to comply with federal law. The license would not be valid for federal purposes, such as boarding an airplane or entering a federal building.

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center estimated that 25,000 district residents were in the country illegally.

"These people are here and are undocumented, but they're here, they're working, they have children, they have families," Cheh said. "Not being able to drive is an extraordinary burden on them having anything like a normal life."

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