Vernon Ogrodnek / Press of AC
Connecticut lawmakers have approved a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.
After a heated debate that extended through the night, members of the Connecticut House of Representatives have approved a proposal that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, register their vehicles and get insurance.
The debate on the bill to allow licenses regardless of citizenship or immigration status started around 10 p.m. and stretched for more than seven hours, ending with a 74-55 vote.
Supporters said the legislation would create millions of dollars in state revenue and make the roads safer.
“There is a stark contrast here,” Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey said. “There are 54,000 untrained, unlicensed, and uninsured drivers on our roads. We believe we should deal with this reality now, while those opposed simply want another study. ”
Opponents said more research should have been done on the bill.
State Rep. Themis Klarides called the process the bill came through the state Legislature "irresponsible" and "disappointing."
“Without a study or any effort to thoroughly vet this concept, we can only speculate the impact this bill will have on homeland security, public safety, insurance policy holders and insurance companies. Perhaps even more troubling is that we have no plan to allocate the financial and staff resources needed for the DMV to manage the colossal influx of demand that will cripple their day-to-day operations,” she said in a statement.
“Connecticut would be the only state on the east coast to allow such a program, making the state a magnet for illegal immigrants who bring with them a host of increased costs to state government,” State Rep. David Scribner said in a statement.
Now the debate goes to the state Senate and is not expected to come up until next week, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr., an outspoken advocate for immigration reform, took on the issue seven years ago by offering undocumented immigrants resident identification cards and released a statement in support of the legislation.
"Like the municipal ID, granting immigrants driver licenses regardless of immigration status is good policy. Drivers’ licenses will reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road and will establish training and testing standards to ensure driver safety. Moreover, like the Elm City ID, drivers’ licenses can help connect immigrants with banking services to help reduce street crime, increase the reporting of crime and help to create a sense of community identity,” DeStefano said in a statement.
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, DeStefano said in March.