D.C. Council begins debating immigrant driver bills

A woman holds up a sign that reads \'One City, One license\' in Spanish. Supporters of two immigrant driver\'s license proposals before the D.C. Council rallied outside the Wilson Building Thursday. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

WASHINGTON – Supporters of a bill that would allow immigrants to get a driver’s license rallied in front of city hall before a District Council hearing Thursday.

The District Council has begun reviewing two immigrant license proposals. One plan would allow illegal immigrants to obtain a regular driver’s license available to legal residents living in D.C. The second proposal would allow illegal immigrants to obtain a license but the license would include a special symbol or marking to designate their immigration status.

Supporters of expanding who is eligible to drive in the District, like Jaime Contreras, call it a safety issue.

“It’s making sure that everybody who drives in Washington, D.C., is insured, has a license,” says Contreras, who is with SEIU, a labor union that represents thousands of immigrants working in the U.S.

But he worries that a license that would identify some drivers as undocumented could lead to racial profiling.

Not everyone agrees with either proposal.

Brad Botwin of Help save Maryland, a group that opposes policies that could encourage illegal immigration, says workers who are in the country illegally should not be driving.

“We should not be giving driver’s licenses to people who have no legal status here in the country,” he says. “If they are on the roads and they are caught without a license, they should be deported.”

WTOP’s Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow @hsilverbergwtop and @WTOP on Twitter.

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