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Debate intensifies over proposal to provide PA driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

By Rosa Duarte, Reporter, RDuarte@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 29 2013 09:42:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 30 2013 06:11:20 AM CDT

Driver's license debate

Should undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania be able to get driver's licenses?

Legislation's in the works, and activists are taking the issue to local college campuses to raise awareness.

Before 2002, people in Pennsylvania were able to get a driver's license using their tax ID number, allowing thousands of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to get one.

When the law changed, “The state retroactively canceled the driver's licenses of several thousand untold numbers of Pennsylvanians who had gotten their licenses legally at the time” said Desi Burnette with the group 'Fight for Driver's Licenses.'

The fight for driver's licenses was successful at taking the issue to lawmakers in Harrisburg over the summer and in June, Representative Mark Cohen introduced legislation that would allow the tax ID number to be used once again.

Tuesday, Burnette and local activist Martha Monroy met with faculty at Northampton Community College about bringing up the issue with students in the near future.

For Burnette, the more support they're able to get, the better. “Now that we introduced the bill, we introduced it this summer, we're starting to connect with the community all across Pennsylvania” she said.

State Representative Angel Cruz introduced similar legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a driver's license, but according to his bill, the license would look different, and the person would not be allowed to use it as a form of ID.

“It's just a drivers license, you cannot use it to travel, you cannot use it as a passport, you can't use it for ID, you can't use it for anything else only to give you the right to drive in Pennsylvania and obtain insurance for your vehicle” he said.

Cruz says his bill has more chances of gaining approval especially among Republicans, but with both bills being considered by the Transportation Committee, it may take several months before lawmakers make a decision.