Churches Fight to Allow Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

To obtain a drivers’ license in the state of Connecticut, you must be a U.S. citizen or your legal status must be verified. However, a group of almost 30 congregations in Connecticut wants to change that.  

On Sunday, Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut will launch its campaign for legislation to expand access to driver’s licenses so all residents, regardless of their immigration status, have the opportunity to legally obtain one.

The proposal would allow immigrant residents of the state to apply for and obtain a driver’s license and register their vehicles by proving their identity and residency, but not legal immigration status.

A news conference will take place at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 115 Blatchley Ave. in New Haven at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, which happens to be Three Kings Day.

New Haven was the first city in the United States to offer municipal identification cards to residents, regardless of their immigration status.

“Denying driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status allows criminals to victimize immigrant communities with impunity, since people without identification are reluctant to report crimes to the police or come forward to testify,” Father James Manship of St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven said in a news release. “It also deprives the state of $2 million each year in badly needed revenue from registration fees.”

According to Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, an estimated 54,000 Connecticut immigrants are not eligible to obtain drivers’ licenses and unlicensed, uninsured drivers increase insurance premiums in Connecticut by $20 million each year.

“This self-defeating policy is blind to reality,” Father David Blanchfield of St. Jerome Church in Norwalk said in a news release. “It does nothing to solve our immigration problems. All it does is make our roads less safe, our immigrant families less secure, and car insurance more expensive – by $20 million each year.”

The organization of congregations believes that witnesses to crimes will be more comfortable reporting crimes to the police and cooperating in investigations if they have identification and drivers would be more likely to stay at the scene of a crash to aid police and emergency workers and exchange insurance information with other motorists.

The legislation would not be unprecedented.

A bill moving through the state Legislature in Illinois would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, according to the Associated Press.

According to the church group, Washington also has a law that allows immigrants to drive, regardless of citizenship status.

But, law expanding rights to drive is not without controversy.

The Washington Times reports that the governor of New Mexico is trying to repeal the state’s law that allows undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses because of concerns about security and fraud.


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