Undocumented immigrants seek Pa. drivers licenses

Posted: May 30, 2014

HARRISBURG - They are mothers, farmworkers, small-business owners, and taxpayers who say the law barring them from obtaining drivers' licenses violates their basic right to move freely in their lives.

Two dozen undocumented immigrants gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to rally for a bill to allow them to drive legally in Pennsylvania.

Until 2002, state residents without Social Security cards could get drivers' licenses with a federal tax ID number. But a post-9/11 crackdown changed that. Now, as many as 200,000 Pennsylvanians may be affected because of congressional inaction on immigration reform and the state's fear of granting IDs to terrorists, advocates say.

Esvin Moltanado, a farmworker from Chambersburg, said some drive illegally because they lack access to public transportation. "Our families, they live in fear of being stopped by police," he said through an interpreter.

The group Pennsylvania Fight for Drivers' Licenses says providing licenses to undocumented workers - as eight states plus the District of Columbia have done - would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue through license sales, improve safety on the roads by ensuring drivers are licensed and have insurance, and allow more people to improve their lives through mobility.

House Bill 1648 would again allow taxpayer ID numbers or other forms of ID, such as a foreign passport, to be used to obtain a driver's license. Its sponsor, Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.), said without transportation, employers can exploit workers in hazardous occupations such as farm labor. "All people capable of driving a car and capable of passing a test have the right to drive," he said.

Neither Gov. Corbett nor leaders in the GOP-controlled House support the bill. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House majority leaders, said members of his caucus had "grave concerns" about the state's issuing licenses to people here illegally.

"The rules were tightened up because of 9/11," he said. "The state shouldn't decide who is recognized. That is something that should be up to the federal government."


 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|