People who are in the country illegally would be able to obtain driver’s licenses in Virginia under legislation that is advancing in the state’s General Assembly.
The bill passed through the Senate’s Finance and Appropriations Committee Wednesday with 11 Democrats voting for it and five Republicans opposed.
“This is probably the No. 1 issue in the Latino community,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Scott Surovell, a Democrat who represents parts of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties. “The bill would basically allow about 300,000 people to obtain a driver’s license.”
Since 2004, all applicants for a Virginia driver’s license have been required to show proof of their “legal presence,” meaning they need to prove that they are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents of the U.S. or are legally authorized to be in the country.
Surovell’s bill would simply remove that requirement.
“It’s a public safety issue and also a quality-of-life issue,” Surovell said.
“People need to be able to drive to the doctor, take their kids to school and drive to work without fear of being prosecuted.”
Surovell said it would likely lead to between $10 million and $17 million of additional revenue for Virginia through driver’s license fees and cars being titled.
An identical bill has been introduced in the House.
Maryland, a dozen other states and D.C. allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses by providing certain documents, such as foreign birth certificates or foreign passports.
“You’d have to prove your identity as any other Virginian would have to prove your identity,” Surovell said. “That could be done with a passport and a lot of different ways.”
Surovell’s bill pertains only to traditional driver’s licenses and not the “Real ID,” a type of identification that will soon be required of everyone in the U.S. in order to fly on commercial airplanes or access federal facilities.