Drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants could become reality if a proposed bill becomes law.
More than 2,000 people showed up to a Transportation Committee hearing at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven on Monday night and almost all are in support of the legislation.
Immigrants and their advocates filled the auditorium to capacity and hundreds of people were forced to wait outside or in overflow rooms. Many argued that this is as much about public safety as it is about dignity for all.
“It makes sense to issue drivers licenses for these individuals to obtain insurance,” said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
DeStefano, an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, first took on the issue seven years ago by offering undocumented immigrants resident identification cards.
He said more than 10,000 cards have been issued since the program's inception and the ID cards have gone a long way in strengthening relationships between residents and the city’s police department.
“I think it's made great sense in promoting safe, civil behavior in our city and I think it’s time the State of Connecticut steps up for that opportunity too,” he said.
State Rep. Juan Candelaria, who represents New Haven, said this is mostly an issue of public safety. “We have people traveling on our roads and we need to train them to do so.”
That is what brought Armando Morales and his wife Jeimy Zepeda to the hearing.
They own a cleaning business in East Haven and it took a serious hit when their van was destroyed in a crash with an undocumented, uninsured driver because t hey were responsible for the medical bills and the cost of a new car.
“For our business, it was a step back because we couldn’t deliver to our customers as they were requesting us,” said Morales.
The couple was not surprised by the large turnout at the hearing.
“I think this turn-out shows that they need this and they are sure they want to make the right decision,” he said.