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One’s ability to drive a car plays a significant role in carrying out essential day-to-day tasks, be it picking up groceries, taking and picking up kids from school, and, most importantly, reporting for work. However, driver’s licenses are unobtainable by undocumented immigrants in most of the states here in the United States. In turn, most undocumented immigrants who have settled in the U.S. often face a difficult choice, one that lies between meeting their daily obligations or living in constant fear of being apprehended by law enforcement for driving in the absence of a driver’s license. A driver’s license not only plays a vital role in maintaining road safety but also serves as a valid identity document, one that may be used to acquire a wide range of essential benefits and services. When undocumented immigrants are licensed, this leads to safer roads, strengthens families, and substantially benefits the economy.

The availability of driver’s licenses to undocumented workers and residents is considered by many as a public safety issue. Regardless of their nationality, well-trained, insured, and tested drivers are more likely to make better drivers. Such individuals are less likely to get into accidents or get involved in hit-and-run scenarios. Additionally, a driver’s license in its unique sense does not indicate nor confer an individual’s lawful status in the U.S., so when licenses are offered to undocumented immigrants does not affect the laws of federal immigration. However, even for states willing to offer licenses to undocumented immigrants, there are limits on the types of licenses that they can offer.

For states wishing to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, they are obliged to adhere to the federal REAL ID Act terms, as enacted by Congress in 2005. According to the act, if state’s driver’s licenses are taken up for federal reasons such as boarding a commercial plane, the rules have to fulfill certain obligations such as the verification of the applicant’s lawful immigration status or citizenship, issuing a temporary limitation on the U.S. non-citizens licenses for a particular legal stay, and labeling nonconforming licenses such that they can be recognized as unacceptable for federal practices. Other necessary features include a signature, digital photo, machine-readable technology, and security features.

According to Grinspan, a writer for the Miami Herald, granting driver’s licenses to all state residents not only results in a substantial boost to state revenue but also improves and enhances public safety by curtailing hit-and-runs and accidents. According to the Florida Policy Institute (FPI) CEO, Sadaf Knight, when access to driver’s licenses was made available to all Floridians, this generated a new stream of revenue that made sense for the state, more so in the wake of the Sunshine States drawing towards revenue fall. The adoption of an inclusive policy serves many advantages, including making our roads safer and providing undocumented immigrants the chance to support their loved ones better while at the same time contributing to the local and state economy (King et al., 60).

To effectively illustrate the essence of issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants who are undocumented, the case of Florida sets a perfect example. According to a report issued by Florida Policy Institute in 2019, the adoption of the policy seeking to issue driver’s licenses to all of Florida has the potential to generate close to $68.6 million in state revenue in a span of three years, a figure arrived at from the taxes and fees emanating from the purchase of vehicles and payment of license fees. According to the FPI, it is projected that more than half of the 685,000 undocumented immigrants who have attained driving age in Florida would pursue to obtain a driving license in the span of three years of the policy’s implementation. The FPI goes further to assert that when the new Florida driver’s license fee is paid by over 300,000 undocumented immigrants, this may generate close to $16 million for the state. The $52 million remaining would be made from various fees and taxes levied by the state once vehicles are purchased and registered. Additionally, leaning on other states’ experience in the expansion of license eligibility, it is expected that more than 85,000 cars will be purchased, titled, and registered in a span of three years after the implementation of the policy. Funds generated from the fees would, therefore, aid the Florida Transport Department and other related projects in infrastructural development.

The Florida case offers a perfect example of the economic aspect that is prone to be noticed in the implementation of a policy that seeks to issue licenses to all residents of a state. Additionally, another fiscal windfall not taken into consideration in the generated revenue from state taxes is the possibility that the undocumented immigrants’ access to driving licenses may help them secure higher-rewarding jobs, hence boosting the undocumented group’s contributions in state and local taxes annually. According to Alexis Davis, an analyst at FPI, research from other states that have implemented such policies suggests that if one owns a personal vehicle, one doesn’t have to rely on public transportation as much and maybe one can commute or travel a bit further for a better position of employment that pays more. Therefore, if one earns more, one spends more, which, in turn, feeds back into the state’s economy.

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Another reason why states ought to strive towards issuing undocumented immigrants with driver’s licenses leans toward making the roads safer. Completion of the process to acquire a license means learning traffic signs and rules, submitting to a hearing and vision screen, and taking driving tests. According to research, unlicensed drivers that lack such testing and training are more dangerous compared to their counterparts who have undergone training, including those driving with licenses that are suspended. In states that allow undocumented immigrants to drive lawfully, reciprocity exists between road safety and license access, with fatal crashes, alcohol-involved crashes, and uninsured rates dropping significantly after the law changed. For instance, once undocumented immigrants close to one million in California were granted permission to access driver’s licenses, incidences of hit-and-run dropped by 10 percent. Research suggests that the adoption of the policy in California reduced fears of vehicle impoundment and deportation fears. Additionally, as reported by Connecticut in 2019, after the expansion of its license access, official data showed that in certain cities, hit-and-runs dropped significantly by 15 percent, which, in turn, led to millions of dollars being saved in various expenses. Additionally, a license policy that’s more inclusive has the potential to have a more significant percentage of drivers being insured.

Licenses also play a significant role in policing. According to Burrell, an analyst and writer for Connecticut, licenses help officers save time in the process of issuing regular citations. According to police officers in the capital city of Hartford, pulling someone over without any ID would at times take the officer off the road for close to three hours. Therefore, the Drive Only licenses prove essential to both the community and the police. This also boosts state revenue in many ways. While not all states issue licenses to undocumented immigrants, as of 2018, 12 states, including Washington, California, Vermont, Colorado, Utah, Connecticut, Nevada, Delaware, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maryland, and Illinois, offer licenses to all its state residents. The basic guidelines to acquire such a license include that proof of nationality and identity is provided by the applicant in the form of a consular card and birth certificate, including verification of current state residency.

All states should seek to grant driver’s licenses to all state residents since it enhances public safety on roads in a diverse range of ways. As stated earlier, the extension of driving privileges to immigrants who are undocumented necessitates the applicants to take driving tests and effectively put on record with the applicable vehicle agencies. Drivers who are licensed have a clear understanding of traffic rules and regulations, hence less likely to break traffic laws. Additionally, licensed drivers stand higher chances of acquiring auto insurance, hence lowering the costs of accidents involving motorists who are uninsured and likely reducing everyone’s insurance rates. Additionally, since motorists can be easily identified and accurate traffic records are identified, law enforcement agencies can ensure public safety better. All factors considered, in the quest to issue driver’s licenses for all, it is ultimately vital to weigh in on the fact that it is five times more probable for unlicensed drivers to be involved in a fatal car accident.

Away from road public safety, when all residents are granted driver’s licenses, our communities are made safer. This is made possible as states are accorded the ability to maintain accurate records, which include addresses and names of all state inhabitants. Additionally, healthcare practitioners and providers, as well as first responders, can determine the patients’ and victims’ identities accurately. If jails and courts are less congested by cases emanating from driving in the absence of insurance or license, state resources could be used to cater to more essential concerns. In terms of strengthening families, permission to freely drive undocumented families are accorded the chance to fully participate in society in the absence of the constant fear of being arrested or stopped by law enforcement. Also, driver’s licenses may also serve as identification forms, which makes it possible for immigrant families to live in a society more noticeably and confidently with enhanced access to essential services such as medical care and financial institutions.

Despite the many advantages associated with the adoption of policies seeking to issue licenses for all, it is no doubt that such policies have gone under severe scrutiny. Some critics of such systems that encourage undocumented immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses assert that such policies support undocumented and illegal immigration. Additionally, other critics go further to claim that when undocumented immigrants are issued state licenses, this increases the probability of identification and voter fraud. According to an interview conducted by MiBiz’s sister publication in 2018, Michelle LaJoye-Young, Kent County Sheriff, stated that before 2008, obtaining license credentials led to many problems for local enforcement in identity confirmation. As a result, this created issues of identity theft, as an individual could create an identity for themselves with only a few pieces of paper. LaJoye-Young went further to state her discomfort with a policy seeking to issue licenses for all where a strong foundation on how a person is identified lacks. However, supporters of such policies play down the concerns, as it is possible for the issues to be addressed in legislation. According to advocates for immigration, the ability to acquire a driver’s license is less likely to make immigrants shift to other states.

Over the past years, the subject of whether undocumented immigrants should be issued driver’s licenses has been an important topic for debate. While some citizens and legislatures may be against the idea, citing potential cases of increased immigration rates, one cannot simply ignore the benefits that come along with the implementation of policies seeking to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. The adoption of such systems across states not only boosts safety on our roads but also increases states’ revenue in multiple ways while at the same time strengthening community ties. In my opinion, denying people the chance to obtain driver’s licenses is not wrong, but also works in dissent to the great American virtues of love and respect for all humanity. Regardless of immigration status, we, as American and non-American citizens, ought to call for love and respect for every human being, while at the same time acknowledging their efforts and dignity to work so as to provide not only for themselves but also for their families.

Works Cited

  1. Chris Burrell. “Licensed Undocumented Immigrants May Lead to Safer Roads, Connecticut Finds”. Morning Edition, 2019. Accessed on 24 November 2019 from
  2. Jose Vargas. “Why Undocumented Immigrants Need Driver’s Licenses”. BuzzFeed, 2013. Accessed on 24 November 2019 from
  3. Mary C. King, Anabel López Salinas, John G. Corbett, Rafael Reyes Morales, Alicia Sylvia Gijón Cruz, and Kim M. Williams. ‘The Impact of U. S. State-Level Immigration Reform on Ilegal Mexican Migrants: The Loss of Access to Driver’s Licenses in Oregon’. Frontera Norte, 2014, 26: 55–84.
  4. Tom Jacobs. “One Big Benefit of Issuing Drivers’ Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants”. Pacific Standard, 2019. Accessed on 24 November 2019 from
  5. Zach Williams. “How Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Would Work”. City & State, 2019. Accessed on 24 November 2019 from

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