Nick Iannelli, wtop.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A bill that would effectively upend a Maryland state law that prohibits new driver's licenses for illegal immigrants is moving through the legislature.
"If you live in Maryland you should be able to obtain a driver's license," says State Senator Victor Ramirez.
Ramirez is sponsoring the measure, asserting it would offer every driver more protection on the roadways and generate millions in additional fees.
"It would allow people to drive to work, to get insurance," he says. "It's a necessity."
Maryland has outlawed providing undocumented residents new driver's licenses since 2009, when the state altered its laws to conform with new, tighter federal regulations.
Under federal law, the licenses would be exclusively for driving.
"You cannot use it to get on an airplane," explains Ramirez. "You cannot use it for federal purposes."
That fact would be explicitly noted on the license itself.
The proposal has broad Democratic support but Republicans fear it could turn Maryland into a draw for new illegal residents.
Opponents like Delegate Kelly Schulz also say the measure could take away incentive to become legal.
"When you give someone a state ID, it is an agreement for them to be here," she says.
Washington, New Mexico and Illinois have state laws allowing for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Other states are granting licenses to immigrants who qualify for work waivers under immigration laws relaxed by the White House last year.
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