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Access To Driver's Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants Fails Along Party Lines

Dozens of people from the Hispanic community filled a Senate Transportation Committee Wednesday to support driver privilege cards. Whittney Evans/WCVE

A proposal to create a special driver’s license in Virginia for undocumented immigrants who live and work in the state failed on Wednesday.

The bill would have permitted the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a temporary driver privilege card to individuals who can show they’ve lived in Virginia for a year, paid income taxes and passed a driving test.

Hispanic community members and advocates told members of a Senate transportation committee that providing a legal means for qualifying undocumented immigrants to drive would provide them with better access to healthcare, education and jobs.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said the ID would lower insurance premiums for all drivers and encourage hundreds of thousands more people to file Virginia income tax returns.

Surovell said it would improve public safety because it would deter hit and runs and motivate people to cooperate with law enforcement.

“When a criminal situation happens, whether it’s domestic assault, whether it’s another crime or police investigation, they’re much more likely to come forward and identify themselves,” Surovell said.

The committee ultimately killed the proposal on a party-line vote.

Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said she sympathizes with the immigrant community, but wasn’t ready to support the bill.

“Do you give privileges to people who are here and are not documented?” Chase said. “That’s the question we’re trying to answer today and there’s not really a consensus on that right now.”

Immigrant rights advocate Luis Aguilar was disappointed that no Republicans supported the bill.

“They seem to have absolutely no kind of leadership when it comes to dealing with any type of issues, specifically building bridges with the immigrant community.”