Sunday, December 08, 2013 3:20 PM
Published on: Thursday, June 27, 2013
By Holden Wilen
After the passage of a bill in the Maryland General Assembly authorizing the issuance of new driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, the Motor Vehicle Administration is preparing for an influx of applicants.
MVA spokesman Philip Dacey said the license should be available on Jan. 1, 2014, and the agency will determine by the end of the summer what specific documents applicants will have to provide for the license. Dacey said applicants will have to go through a slightly different process than applicants for a normal driver’s license, and applicants will likely have to show proof of residence and their age or provide two years of tax returns. The license will not be good for federal purposes, such as air travel.
The license is not a new license, Dacey said, because 95,000 people in Maryland already have the license after being grandfathered into the Real ID Act in 2009. Rather, he said, the change is the license will be made available to new applicants and allow current license holders to apply for renewal when their IDs expire in 2015.
Shola Ajayi, an advocacy specialist for Casa de Maryland, said there are 275,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants in Maryland. While not all of them are of driving age, he said it is safe to assume there could be as many as 100,000 applicants for the new license.
Casa de Maryland supported the General Assembly’s legislation, Ajayi said, because the license will provide new opportunities for immigrants who don’t drive.
“Mothers who want to pick up their children from school, fathers who need to get to work, or when a child is sick and needs to be taken to the doctor – immigrants who do not have access to a driver’s license are stranded,” Ajayi said. “They have to rely on family members or maybe lean on taxis in case of emergencies. It is basically an impossible obstacle for people who are trying to immigrate into their community to live without a license.”
Another reason the license is important, Ajayi said, is because it will make the road safer by decreasing the number of people driving without a license. Without a license, he said, people are not eligible for driver’s insurance, making the roads more dangerous.
One of the concerns critics have about the license, Dacey said, is whether illegal immigrants will be given the opportunity to register to vote through the motor-voter law. He said the issue will not be a problem because the applicants go through a computerized process when applying for the license. If the applicant is not able to provide a social security number during a series of questions, the voter question does not appear.
Overall, Ajayi said the new license will have a huge impact and goes beyond just giving people the ability to drive. The license will give people opportunities they did not have before.
“It gives more of a voice to people besides driving,” Ajayi said. “I think we all experience this when you turn 16, you have a car and you have the freedom and the opportunity that driving gives you. It means you can look for a better paying job outside of walking distance. Kids will be able to participate in a whole range of activities that are outside of the bus line. Basically there are more opportunities because the world becomes available to you and it opens up and there is easier access to the things you need.”