Maryland Senate passes driver's licensing bill for illegal immigrants

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/ABC7) - The Maryland Senate has passed a measure that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

The measure was approved in a 29-18 vote.

The bill now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.

According to law enforcement sources, tthe driver who caused a fatal two-car crash in Glenn Dale Monday morning is an illegal immigrant who is also unlicensed and uninsured.

The terrible accident is not an isolated story, and it's one of the reasons Maryland seems poised to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Maryland law currently allows drivers who are in the country illegally to obtain a second-tier driver's license.

If passed, the bill would eliminate indefinitely the state's 2015 deadline for undocumented immigrants to get rid of their Maryland driver's licenses.

Prince George's County Delegate Jolene Ivey is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would grant Maryland licenses to those who pass written and driving tests. Applicants must also be able to prove they live in Maryland and have paid income taxes for two years.

"If you have a driver's license, it means that you've passed a driving test. It means the police have the opportunity[to] get [your] name, where you live, etc...," Ivey explained.

It's estimated that 275,000 illegal immigrants live in Maryland. Those who go through the process at the MVA will be given a second-class license.

The license would not grant residential status.

Supporters of the measure say the licenses will make the state's roads safer.

Opponents of the legislation say that the bill could turn Maryland into a haven for illegal immigrants.

Lionel Williams of Prince George's County said, "If you don't have the necessary documents then I don't think you should have one."

But the majority of legislators at least seem to agree with the other side of the argument - some people are going to be on the roads licensed or not.

Prince George's County resident Carlos Guttierez added, "I kinda know a couple people that can't get it that's gonna help them out a lot. The only difference is they're gonna drive legally."

If passed, Maryland would become one of a handful of states in recent years to allow illegal immigrants to legally obtain driver's licenses.

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