Did you know that immigrants in Lancaster County who are outside of the immigration system cannot get driver’s licenses? Exchange students, immigrants who have moved here for work and immigrants rejoining family members can all get driver’s licenses if they apply and pass the tests, but immigrants without visas cannot, at least not now. The state has joined a handful of other states, however, that would allow these immigrants to apply for driving privileges.
The rhetoric behind the legislation is that driving privileges makes it easier for this group of immigrants to get to work and it encourages safety. It is quite difficult to get around Pennsylvania without a car, so immigrants who cannot get driver’s licenses are often forced to either live very close to work, sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods, or to take public transportation, which can also be a safety risk. By giving these immigrants driving privileges, it can improve their standard of living.
There are some, however, who argue that the state should not do anything to make things easier for immigrants who are already in the United States in violation of immigration law. To them, however, it is important to remind them that no one, whether an immigrant with all of his or her paperwork in place or someone who moved here without the requisite visas, deserves a certain quality of life.
It remains to be seen whether the Pennsylvania legislature turns this bill into a law. For now, however, there will be many immigrants without visas putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk just to make ends meet.
Source: New Jersey Spotlight, “Bill would put undocumented residents on road to driving privileges,” Hank Kalet, March 24, 2014