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Lawmakers Propose Letting Undocumented Immigrants Get Driver’s Licenses

Plan Is Touted As Solution to Public Safety, Insurance Issues

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, challenged Speaker Robin Vos on his suggestion that the bill would allow undocumented immigrants to vote. Photo: State of Wisconsin.

A bipartisan bill to get driver’s licenses into the hands of undocumented immigrants is being touted as a public safety issue.

One of the authors, Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, was a longtime sheriff’s deputy in Door County. He said there should be widespread support among the driving public for this because licensed drivers are more likely to carry auto insurance. Uninsured drivers often can’t pay for vehicle damage or physical harm they cause.

“Those that have traffic mishaps with uninsured people can be involved in financially devastating situations,” said Bies.

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is concerned that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will not only allow them to drive, but also vote. Bill co-author Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said it’s less about immigration than public safety.

“All due respect to the speaker, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Zamarripa. “If he’s concerned and he thinks everybody with a driver’s license is a citizen, that’s not true.”

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, pointed out that Illinois allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses: “There is no valid reason why qualified persons should not be able to drive on our highways. Citizenship should not be a qualifying factor.”

The proposed law does not conflict with federal anti-terror provisions called REAL ID. Under the bill, the state driver’s license for undocumented immigrants would look different than a REAL ID license, stating “Identification Card only.” It could not be used to board an airplane or get into a federal facility.

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