Toolkit | Access to Driver’s Licenses

Toolkit | Access to Driver’s Licenses


LEGISLATIVE TESTIMONY, RESEARCH, AND RELATED ISSUES

TOOLKIT CONTENTSLegislative Testimony
Research
Related Issues

Legislative Testimony

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Testimony for the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on HB 789

“The ACLU of Maryland supports HB 789, which would create a limited-use driver’s license.  Limited-use driver’s licenses would help ensure that more Marylanders have access to the basic necessities of daily life, would improve public safety and security, and would be consistent with the standards set forth in the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.” (ACLU of Maryland*)

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Testimony for the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on SB 715

“The ACLU of Maryland strongly supports this much-needed proposal to expand Maryland residents’ access to a license to drive. Without a license to drive, individuals cannot perform the most essential daily functions and activities, such as taking their children to school, going to medical visits, grocery shopping, keeping medical appointments, or going to and from their places of employment. In addition, expanding access to licenses to drive is critical for highway safety.” (ACLU of Maryland*)

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Testimony in Support of SB 68, SB 628, and HB 6037 to Allow Undocumented Immigrants Access to Driver’s Licenses

“First, we discuss the policy benefits of granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Second, we discuss the Legislature’s legal authority to expand access to licenses. Third, we discuss the successes other states have had in making driver’s licenses more widely available, including the documentation policies they have used to issue secure, verifiable licenses. Fourth, we briefly discuss additional implementation issues.” (Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, Yale Law School; Counsel for Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT*)

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Statement on Bill 20-275, the “District of Columbia Driver’s Safety Amendment Act of 2013” 

“The ACLU of the Nation’s Capital supports the right of undocumented immigrants to enjoy the protections and freedoms provided by the U.S. Constitution. Bill 20-275 creates the opportunity for undocumented DC residents to obtain driver’s licenses, but Section 8c(d) would make those licenses distinguishable from the driver’s licenses issued to DC citizen residents. Distinguishable driver’s licenses establish a lower-tier ID for undocumented immigrants, rendering them vulnerable to discrimination and harassment by businesses, landlords, security guards, police officers, and other government agents.” (ACLU of the Nation’s Capital*)

Research

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Punishing Immigrants for Sprawl

This article explains why immigrants residing in the U.S. need to be able to drive, and it describes the immigration and criminal justice consequences of not having a driver’s license. The article documents the consequences for people of color of driver’s license and traffic laws aimed at immigrants, as well as racial profiling in traffic stops. It includes useful links to studies demonstrating these broader impacts, which may be helpful in challenging driver’s license restrictions purportedly directed at immigrants. (Tanya Misra, The Atlantic’s CityLab, May 23, 2017)

Two of the reports to which the CityLab article links are the following:

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Providing Driver’s Licenses to Unauthorized Immigrants in California Improves Traffic Safety

This peer-reviewed study by three Stanford University researchers examines the short-term traffic safety effects of the California law (AB 60) allowing immigrants who are unauthorized to be in the U.S. to obtain driver’s licenses. The study concludes that the new licenses reduced the occurrence of hit-and-run accidents, with resulting improvements in public safety and reduced costs for California drivers. The authors find that the 10 percent decrease in hit-and-run accidents attributable to the law prevented 4,000 hit-and-run accidents, saved $3.5 million in out-of-pocket expenses, and transferred $17 million in costs to at-fault drivers (meaning that accident costs were charged to the responsible party rather than to the victims of hit-and-run drivers and their insurers). This study provides critical empirical evidence of the benefits of issuing licenses to all eligible state residents, regardless of their immigration status. (Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller, and Duncan Lawrence, excerted from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2017)

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Expanding Access to Licenses

This report analyzes the costs and benefits of expanding access to driver’s licenses to New York state residents, without regard to their immigration status. It concludes that an estimated 265,000 immigrants would get a license; an estimated 97,000 cars would be purchased and registered in the state; an estimated $57 million in combined annual government revenue, plus $26 million in one-time revenues revenue generated from driver’s license fees would easily outweigh any costs; and the state would experience additional benefits in terms of better job match, increased contributions to the local economy, reinforcing New York’s position as a state that welcomes and benefits from immigrants, improved public safety, and a modest decrease in insurance costs. (David Dyssegaard Kallick and Cyierra Roldan, Fiscal Policy Institute, Jan. 31, 2017)

The Fiscal Policy Institute released the following two reports to accompany the one described above (also dated Jan. 31, 2017):

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The Road to Opportunity: Granting Driver’s Licenses to All New Yorkers

This report uses data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Census Bureau to predict that up to 150,000 undocumented immigrants in New York City would be eligible for a license if made available to them.  The report concluded that the benefits of extending driver’s privileges to all New Yorkers would enhance public safety, provide increased financial stability for families, increase employment opportunities, and lower auto insurance premiums.  The report also concluded that increased revenues would generate up to $9.6 million  in driver’s license fees, with an additional $1.3 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and would boost auto sales by 2.7 percent, with resulting increases in registration and title fees, vehicle use taxes and gasoline sales taxes.  These revenues would offset program costs. (Office of New York City Comptroller, Jan. 31, 2017)

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AB 60 Driver Licenses Believed to Cause 2015 Bump in Insured Vehicles

A preliminary analysis by the California Department of Insurance highlights the positive impact of AB 60 (California’s law granting driver’s licenses to individuals who do not have proof of authorized presence in the U.S.) in reducing the number of uninsured drivers. The insurance commissioner reported that “in 2015, the first year since the passage of AB 60, the number of insured vehicles increased by 200,000 more vehicles than would have been expected.” (Calif. Insurance Commissioner Press Release, Nov. 17, 2016)

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A Legal and Policy Analysis of Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Rhode Islanders

This is a two-part report. The legal section analyzes legislation proposed in Rhode Island that would allow undocumented drivers to obtain driving privileges, comparing the bill to the approaches taken in 14 other states. The report examines the identity and residency requirements as well as states’ compliance with the REAL ID Act.  The policy section concludes that expanding access to driver’s licenses would not lead to an increase of undocumented immigrants into the state; the percentage of uninsured drivers is higher in states without these policies, and the cost of insurance and incidence of traffic fatalities are lower in states where residents can obtain a license regardless of their immigration status. The estimated fiscal revenue for issuing such licenses is between $200,000 and $800,000.  The policy report recommends additional research and concludes that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented drivers would lead to safer roads and potentially better economic opportunities. The report recommends establishing a clear list of requirements and eligibility criteria for issuing licenses, as well as an outreach and education campaign. (Deborah Gonzales and Peter Margulies, “Driver’s Licenses for Rhode Island’s Undocumented Residents: a Legal Analysis”; and J. Alejandro Tirado-Alcaraz, “Issuing Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants in Rhode Island: Policy Analysis”; June 2016)

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The Economic Costs Associated with the Removal of Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants in New Mexico

The authors of this study conclude that “repealing access to driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants will cost the New Mexico economy $38.5 million annually due to decreased labor force productivity among those impacted by the policy change.” Their conclusions are based on an analysis of “changes in state driver’s license policies across the U.S., after the passage of the Federal Real ID Act but before the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to estimate the impact of this policy on labor market outcomes.” The economic effects of repealing the current law would be felt by all New Mexico residents. (Joaquín Alfredo-Angel Rubalcaba and Melina Juárez, Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, Feb. 2016)

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Integrating the Undocumented Community: A Qualitative Exploration of the Process for Obtaining DC’s Limited Purpose Driver’s License

Researchers conducted 75 interviews to study the implementation of the District of Columbia’s Driver’s Safety Amendment Act of 2013, which extended driving privileges to undocumented immigrants. The study provides critical lessons regarding the steps that states should take to ensure that eligible immigrant drivers are able to obtain licenses—and to avoid barriers that interfere with this goal. The researchers found that “although important steps have been made to increase undocumented immigrants’ access to the license, major challenges persist. Undocumented immigrants undergo a different process from individuals obtaining a regular license; this process results in an extended waiting period before obtaining it. The research also determined that a lack of interpreters and the use of phone-interpretation discourages and impedes undocumented immigrants from completing the process. Other factors, such as immigrants’ limited technology skills, lack of knowledge of … DC driving rules and lack of familiarity with the multiple-choice test format also were identified as barriers to passing the required tests and completing the process.” Applicants who were able to get help from community-based organizations fared better in obtaining licenses. The report recommends improving the application process, including phasing out the appointments system, strengthening language access, and increasing accessibility of study materials to help applicants pass the knowledge and road skills test. (Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service at Georgetown University; Central American Resource Center; and Trabajadores Unidos de Washington, DC; Jan. 2016)

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Hands on the Wheel: Improving Safety and Boosting Communities through Removing Barriers to Driver’s Licenses

Makes the case that “[e]xpanding access to driver’s licenses would increase safety and help Virginia’s economy and communities.” Drivers who are trained, tested, and licensed are less likely to be involved in fatal traffic accidents or to leave the scene of an accident, and have greater access to car insurance. Obtaining licenses would help drivers carry out daily activities and secure work, and could result in lower insurance costs for everyone. Finally, expanding access to licenses would not have a major fiscal cost for the state. (Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Jan. 2016)

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Factors Influencing the Number of Alternative Driver’s Licenses Issued by States

This report is a follow-up to an earlier Pew report (Deciding Who Drives) that explores how 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, designed and implemented laws allowing for the issuance of “alternative” licenses to unauthorized immigrants. This second report discusses the number of alternative licenses issued to unauthorized immigrants in states implementing these laws, the factors affecting the numbers, and the differences from earlier projections. (The Pew Charitable Trusts, Nov. 2015)

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Licenses for Immigrant Drivers in Massachusetts

Discusses how expanding access to driver’s licenses for immigrants regardless of immigration status would affect public safety and accountability, state revenues, and the well-being of working families. Reviews some issues involved in implementing such a policy. (Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Sept. 15, 2015)

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Deciding Who Drives: State Choices Surrounding Unauthorized Immigrants and Driver’s Licenses

This report “highlights the decisions and experiences of policymakers and issuing agencies in 11 jurisdictions that issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants.” It identifies four areas in which these states have taken different approaches: scope (covering expected application numbers and cost); eligibility standards; issuance procedures; and outreach and education. It concludes that it is essential for states to plan carefully in “assessing the affected population and accounting for the needs of issuing agencies”; to use available expertise to design their programs to meet the needs of target groups and take into account existing workloads; and to ensure that the target groups know about the license-issuing process. (The Pew Charitable Trusts, Aug. 2015)

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Results from a Nationwide Survey of DACA Recipients Illustrate the Program’s Impact

A survey of 546 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in 34 states and the District of Columbia found that after receiving DACA, 89 percent of respondents obtained a driver’s license or state ID for the first time, 21 percent bought their first car, and 96 percent of those who bought a car bought auto insurance. The average cost of car purchases in the sample was $22,559 for new cars and $9,607 for used cars. These purchases boost state revenues, with most states collecting between 3 and 6 percent of the price in sales tax, as well as registration and title fees.  The report also illustrates that the DACA grantees experienced a 45 percent wage increase, as well as an improved ability to complete their education. (Tom K. Wong, Kelly K. Richter, Ignacia Rodriguez, and Philip E. Wolgin, July 9, 2015)

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Driver’s Licenses for All: The Key to Safety and Security in Pennsylvania

Examines the public-safety and human and economic benefits of expanding access to licenses in Pennsylvania, including an estimated increase in state revenues. Also describes the costs of not changing current law. Includes the results of a survey of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania, illustrating the effects on individuals and their family members of not having a driver’s license. (Social Justice Lawyering Clinic at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law, on behalf of Fight for Driver’s Licenses, June 2015)

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The Effect on Insurance Costs of Restricting Undocumented Immigrants’ Access to Driver Licenses

This report “empirically assesses the effect on the average cost of auto insurance of restricting undocumented access to legal driving documents.” According to the authors, the empirical evidence supports cost reduction and public safety arguments in favor of giving undocumented drivers access to licenses. The report concludes that preventing undocumented drivers from driving legally raises insurance rates in general. (Mauricio Cáceres and Kenneth P. Jameson, Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 81, Issue 4, Apr. 2015)

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Final Report and Recommendations of the Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force

Summarizes the work of the Delaware Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force, established by a 2104 General Assembly Concurrent Resolution. The report describes how allowing all drivers to be tested and insured serves public safety and recognizes the contribution of undocumented immigrants to the Delaware economy and the state’s communities. It recommends that the Delaware legislature pass legislation authorizing a driving-privilege card, as well as a “Trust Act” that would prevent use of information provided in an application about the applicant’s undocumented status from being used for other purposes. (Delaware Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force, Dec. 2014)

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Share the Road: Allowing Eligible Undocumented Residents Access to Driver’s Licenses Makes Sense for New Jersey

Report by a New Jersey think tank arguing that “[a]llowing all residents the opportunity to drive legally would make New Jersey safer, help its economy and increase the well being of many families.” (New Jersey Policy Perspective, Sept. 30, 2014)

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Living in Car Culture Without a License

Details the benefits to individuals and communities of providing access to driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. The report explains that communities suffer when driving restrictions prevent their residents from participating fully in economic and social life. It also examines how expanding access to driver’s licenses contributes to public safety, while failing to offer licenses contributes to a hostile environment with long-term negative effects on communities. It notes that the REAL ID Act does not prevent states from issuing licenses to eligible drivers, regardless of their immigration status. (Sarah E. Hendricks, Ph.D, Immigration Policy Center, Apr. 24, 2014)

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Licensing All Drivers in North Carolina: A Policy that Supports Public Safety and Boosts the Economy

Describes the potential economic and public safety benefits of making driver’s licenses available to all qualified drivers in North Carolina, regardless of their immigration status. (Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, April 2014)

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Estimation of Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers in California

This California Dept. of Motor Vehicles report concludes that drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked and unlicensed drivers “are much more hazardous on the road than are validly licensed drivers. Compared to licensed drivers, those who drive without a valid license are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.” (Sukhvir S. Brar, Research and Development Branch, Licensing Operations Division, Calif. Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Sept. 2012)

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Licensing Immigrant Motorists in Illinois and Improving Road Safety for All

“In the State of Illinois, licensing undocumented motorists would conserve resources, increase road safety, and create additional revenue in fees. This brief suggests policy options that would provide a legal means for undocumented immigrants to drive to work and, consequently, increase both road safety and State revenues.” (Diana M. Guelespe & Ruth Gomberg-Munoz, 2012*)

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Unlicensed to Kill

“Previous studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have found that approximately one in five fatal crashes involved an unlicensed or invalidly licensed driver. This study presents new data on unlicensed and invalidly licensed drivers in fatal crashes over years 2007–2009, and examines trends in crashes involving unlicensed or invalidly licensed drivers from 1990 through 2009.” (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Washington DC, Nov. 2011)

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Assessment of the Socioeconomic Impacts of SB 1080 on Immigrant Groups

Study of the impact of Oregon’s law imposing immigration restrictions on driver’s licenses. From the report’s abstract: “Interviews with nearly 400 Spanish-speaking Oregon residents, conducted in the Summer of 2009, indicate distress and uncertainty in the Latino community, fear of deportation arising from a traffic stop, a significant number of people driving without a license and adjustments within households that reduce access to employment, education, medical and social services, church attendance and recreation. The full range and magnitudes of impacts cannot be known with certainty until SB 1080 is fully implemented in 2016, and the economy has recovered….” (Mary C. King, et al., prepared for the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, June 2011)

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Recession Marked by Bump in Uninsured Motorists: IRC Analysis Finds One in Seven Drivers Are Uninsured

This news release says: “In a new study, Uninsured Motorists, 2011 Edition, IRC estimates the percentage of uninsured drivers countrywide and in individual states for 2008 and 2009. The IRC estimates are based on the ratio of uninsured motorist (UM) insurance claim frequency to bodily injury (BI) claim frequency.” An attached map and table show the percent of uninsured motorists by state in 2009, according to the Insurance Research Council’s estimates. (Insurance Research Council news release, Apr. 21, 2011)

Related Issues

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Immigration Status Verification for Benefits: Actions Needed to Improve Effectiveness and Oversight

As required by the 2016 DHS Appropriations Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS’s) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system. SAVE is used by federal, state, and local agencies to verify immigration status or naturalized or derived citizenship status in a wide range of circumstances, such as for public benefits programs, driver’s and other licenses, educational assistance, and voting.  This 2017 report outlines significant deficiencies in the system and makes recommendations for improvements.

GAO found that the majority of agencies that received a SAVE response prompting additional verification of status did not complete the required steps. In addition, GAO found that the mechanisms for individuals to obtain access to DHS records, correct incorrect information, and seek redress with DHS were “largely ineffective and unlikely to enable benefit applicants to make timely record corrections.” The report also criticized USCIS’s program for monitoring agencies’ use of SAVE in accordance with the memorandum of agreement they signed with USCIS.  The consequences of the deficiencies outlined in the report are wrongful denial of the benefit sought, as well as inability of benefit applicants to challenge the wrongful denial.

Among many other requirements, the REAL ID Act requires states to verify immigration status through SAVE for their driver’s licenses to be deemed acceptable for certain federal purposes. The SAVE system’s deficiencies therefore could impede an eligible driver’s ability to obtain a REAL ID compliant or other form of driver’s license in many states. (U.S. Govt. Accountability Office, GAO-17-204, Mar. 2017)

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The High Cost of Immigration Enforcement in Colorado: Social and Economic Consequences of Article 29 of Title 29 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (SB90)

Using data gathered from a statewide hotline, this study calculated economic and social costs of law enforcement involvement in immigration enforcement, including lost wages, lost jobs, and changing work habits. Seventy-five percent of the hotline sample was reported to ICE following a driving related incident, including speeding, failure to use a turn signal, broken taillights and not having a valid Colorado driver’s license. The study demonstrates the centrality of driving offenses in the involvement of law enforcement in immigration enforcement and provides a model for calculating the costs of the involvement. (Colorado Fiscal Institute, Mar. 26, 2013)

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Misplaced Priorities: SB 90 and the Costs to Local Communities

This study does not specifically deal with driver’s licenses or other driving-related offenses; however, it provides a useful model for calculating the costs for a  state or locality of arresting, reporting and detaining possible undocumented immigrants charged with low level crimes. As indicated by the subsequent Colorado Fiscal Institute report, driving offenses, including driving without a valid Colorado driver’s licenses, constitute the bulk of the offenses leading to immigration enforcement. (Colorado Fiscal Institute, Dec. 1, 2012)

* This organization gave NILC permission to upload this item to NILC’s website.