In 2015, More States Allow Driver’s Licenses for Unregistered Immigrants

Even without a clear resolution to federal immigration reform issues, many states are offering undocumented immigrants more rights and more paperwork.

For illegal immigrants, driver’s licenses matter more than most paperwork for everyday living. More and more immigrants are receiving licenses even though federal reform struggles to move forward. Colorado recently became the tenth state to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The state’s rationale is simple – it enhances road safety.

Not long ago, only three U.S. states offered undocumented immigrants licenses. Slowly, states are extending measures of fairness and equality to those who have arrived in the country without government permission. 

The move to recognize illegal immigrants started in 1993 with Washington State. In early 2015, California, Colorado, Connecticut (effective January 1, 2015), the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, and Washington offer licenses to qualified drivers regardless of citizenship.

States offering licenses see the move as integrating younger immigrants into American society. Alongside the slow groundswell of states nominally recognizing illegals, many wonder when the larger picture is to improve. The federal impasse on immigration reform is forcing states to make concessions in areas where they do not really have the legal authority to do so.

Will the federal trend to recognize undocumented immigrants last? Only time may provide the answer. In the meantime, there is a promising state trend toward helping illegal immigrants become a partially legal part of the American landscape.

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