As Congress debates national immigration reform, the D.C. Council is considering a local bill allowing thousands of undocumented immigrants to get valid D.C. driver’s licenses, but the measure could conflict with federal immigration laws.
Supporters say it’s a public safety measure. Such immigrants would pass driving tests and qualify for auto insurance rather than risk illegal driving as many do now.
“We need to make sure that everybody who's driving has a driver’s license or at least knows the rules, and to be able to do that you’ve got to go through the DMV,” community organizer Tamira Ramirez said.
However, federal immigration measures say such licenses must be stamped as not usable for federal programs.
D.C. supporters of a regular license say the city isn't in the immigration business.
“Then let the federal government enforce its law,” labor leader Joslyn Williams said. “We don't have to carry the ball for the federal government. The driver’s license ends up discriminating against the immigrants because it separates them from the rest of us.”
A spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray said he supports the federal policy of marking licenses of undocumented immigrants. Gray said the city risks devaluing all city licenses for federal programs if the license measure isn't changed when it comes up for final approval in September.