RICHMOND, VA— Despite hearing testimony from DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb in favor of a bill that grants driving privileges to undocumented Virginians, the Senate Transportation Committee voted along party lines to reject SB621. More than 100 people packed the committee room to support SB621 and were disappointed by the bill’s outcome.
Min Su Kang, a youth leader with NAKASEC, spoke in favor of SB621. “The Senate Committee made the wrong choice. This is very disappointing. We will continue to fight for drivers licenses on the House side,” he said.
“While we are disappointed that elected officials have once again denied immigrant families in Virginia basic driving privileges, we are proud of the bold and persistent community members, groups, and legislators who, against all odds, continue to fight alongside us,” said Gustavo Angeles of New Virginia Majority. “We will keep pushing for driving privileges for all and policies that make Virginia a welcoming place of opportunity for everyone, no matter what you look like or where you came from.”
Maria Ortiz, a young leader with the NLIRH Virginia Latina Advocacy Network said, “Access to driver’s licenses is a reproductive justice issue. If I wasn’t able to access a driver’s license, no one would be able to support family and take my brother to his healthcare appointments. I came to testify today in support of my parents and family and I won’t stop fighting for all of us to have equal access to basic driving privileges and until we have health, dignity and justice for all people and families in Virginia.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, 272,000 unauthorized people live in Virginia and all of them lack driver’s licenses. This prevents them from accessing services, finding jobs, and getting proper driver training and insurance.
Research conducted by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis found that expanding driving privileges makes Virginia safer and helps the economy. Giving all Virginians the ability to obtain a driver’s license could improve road safety by increasing the number of drivers who are trained and tested. Increasing access to driver’s licenses could also raise the number of cars that are insured, reducing insurance costs for everyone else. Expanding access to driver’s licenses could help Virginia’s economy because it helps workers get to jobs and employers can count on workers to arrive.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain some form of driver’s identification. The three states that adopted these measures the earliest experienced a 30 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, compared to a nationwide 20 percent drop. Providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized people makes our roads safer, boosts Virginia’s economy and gives Virginians a better quality of life.