By EMMA BARTLETT
Before Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and her sister were in high school and could drive, their father taxied them everywhere. However, there was one problem. He was …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Before Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and her sister were in high school and could drive, their father taxied them everywhere. However, there was one problem. He was undocumented and, since he could not obtain a driver’s license, he was illegally operating a vehicle.
“For six years, my sister and I had to live with the fear that my dad might be detained and not be able to come home because he might have gotten a ticket, run a red light, gotten a flat tire or a tail light,” said Alzate.
As of June 30, this will no longer be a fear for families. At the Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston, Governor Dan McKee signed legislation June 30 to grant driving privilege cards and permits to undocumented Rhode Islanders; the law went into effect July 1.
“It’s no small feat to get this legislation through,” said Hector Perez-Aponte, Coordinator for the Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island.
Perez-Aponte said driving privileges go beyond making the roads safer, but mean families can create a more sustainable household and that the legislation will benefit the economy.
This legislation is roughly 20 years in the making. According to a Thursday press release, this bill allows the DMV to issue driving privileges to undocumented residents in the state who meet certain criteria. The legislation requires that applicants have verification from the tax administrator that they have filed a personal income tax return as a Rhode Island resident for the tax year preceding the date of application, or have been claimed as a dependent on a personal income tax return by an individual who has filed a personal income tax return as a Rhode Island resident for that year.
Applicants are also required to present two primary proof of identity documents, or one primary proof of identity document and one secondary proof of identity document, and two proof of residency documents; they must be in compliance with insurance requirements. Additionally, the permit/card would not be usable for federal or state identification for voting purposes.
“This is an important issue for our economy, equality and public safety,” said McKee. “By granting every Rhode Islander of driving age the opportunity to safely and legally drive a vehicle, we are allowing them to further their education and career – which in turn benefits the entire state. That means more workers will have access to more jobs and opportunities that keep Rhode Island’s momentum going.”
McKee said Rhode Island has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation and this legislation should help correct that by helping control and lower insurance rates.
Lt. Governor Sabina Matos added that this legislation will give 29,000 taxpaying Rhode Islanders legal safe access to our roads. She said that when she and McKee visited companies across the state, they said they could not find workers. Matos believes this new legislation will help with job creation since more individuals will have vehicles to travel to work.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) and Alzate (who also serves as the Chairwoman of the RI Legislative Black and Latino Caucus).
“We know there are people out there driving without a license that have unregistered vehicles and this will correct that problem,” said Ciccone, adding that now they will be trained, tested and insured.
“The community of color has long advocated for the passage of this legislation that will keep our roads safer while also helping a portion of our population who struggle daily due to not being able to drive a car to work, or to pick up their kids, or to go about their daily business. This bill acknowledges that individuals with undocumented status are still human beings who deserve the same services and protections that documented residents enjoy and utilize,” Alzate said.
Senator Sandra Cano (Dist. 8, Pawtucket) shared her story – mentioning that her family came to America in 2000 under political asylum.
“For seven years, my family was here legally, but we were undocumented,” said Cano.
She said they went through an extensive citizenship process and, during that time, her parents couldn’t get drivers licenses even though they were working. To get around, they took the bus and asked for rides.
“This legislation will enhance public safety for all Rhode Islanders and will make a powerful difference in many, many lives. It is simple, it is the right thing to do,” Cano said.
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