Virginia lawmakers vote to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses
Lawmakers in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly voted Tuesday to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driving privileges.
Advocates packed the Capitol for the votes, filling an overflow room where an interpreter translated the debate as unfolded on the floor of the Senate.
“It’s very, very important for me – this moment,” said Ingrid Vaca, who immigrated from Bolivia 20 years ago and lives in Alexandria. She teared up as she described deciding between driving without a license illegally, risking arrest and deportation, and spending two-hours traveling by public transit every morning to her job cleaning houses.
“My life was in the hands of all the people who voted today,” she said.
The Senate voted 22-18 to adopt its version of the legislation, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver privilege card.
To obtain the card, they will have to meet all the requirements necessary for obtaining a standard driver’s license, but must also have filed an income tax return. The cards would have text on the top stating that it is “not valid identification for federal, voting or public benefit purposes.”
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, proposed the measure. He argued many undocumented immigrants are currently driving illegally. Making sure they passed driving tests and are inured will make roads safer. He also described it as a critical quality of life issue.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.