4 Bills Die, Advocates Continue Fight
Despite the perceived momentum toward four separate bills concerning undocumented immigrants being eligible for driver’s licenses, not one of them made it past the Transportation Committee’s deadline last month.
The issue has been a hot one, drawing in crowds larger than 2,000 to public hearings, receiving nearly 100 pieces of supportive testimony and being the theme of several rallies held at the Capitol.
Yet, the bills went zero for four this legislative session.
Considering the governor’s support, the issue does not need a bill and can be done through regulation. But, Rep. Juan Candelaria D-New Haven, who introduced one of the four bills, explained that he wanted something more permanent for “such a touchy subject,” as he described it.
While the issue has the support of the current governor, it may not receive the same backing from future administrations, Candelaria said.
Transportation Committee Chair, Rep. Antonio Guerrera D-Rocky Hill, explained in a phone interview that it’s not a matter of opposition to any of the bills, but rather how to “do it in a way that’s clear, and precise, and can work.”
Guerrera is looking to organize a study group to find out what worked and did not work for states that have passed similar legislation.
“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said.
If passed, Connecticut would join the likes of Illinois, New Mexico, Utah and Washington, which already issue these licenses for driving purposes. Utah and Illinois these licenses are not authorized for the use of identification.
While no obvious opposition may be coming from the Capitol, the majority of the state’s voters lack support for the issue, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll found that only 31 percent of Connecticut voters are in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, and 65 percent are opposed.
The lack of success this legislative session has forced the bills to seek other vehicles of passage. Such as, identifying other, similar, bills that have passed through the Transportation Committee and finding ways to amend them, according to Candelaria.
Candelaria does not foresee an amendment to the budget as a potential vehicle, despite the predicted economic benefits that would follow if this legislation were to pass.
Research suggests that the state could potentially reap nearly $50 million if the legislation passed.
As of 2010, nearly 120,000 unauthorized immigrants resided in Connecticut, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, and approximately 54,000 of them currently drive on Connecticut roads without any documentation, according to research done by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.
If all of the estimated 54,000 undocumented drivers received licenses and purchased car insurance they could yield nearly $46 million in increased revenue for insurance companies, according to Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization’s research.
According to the same research, car registration fees would yield $2 million, and additional revenue would come from license fees.
“Driver’s licenses for everyone makes sense in Connecticut,” Rep. Andres Ayala D-Bridgeport said at a rally earlier this month. “Because, simply, we want safe highways, we want safe roads and we want people who are on our roads to be competent to know what the laws are where they are driving. So it just makes sense.”
Sen. Martin Looney D-New Haven, who introduced two of the four bills, agreed and said that undocumented immigrants are going to drive whether or not they are licensed.
“Whatever may be your view on federal immigration policy going forward, these individuals are residents of our communities and the question we need to answer is, ‘what policies regarding these residents will best serve the goals of enhanced public safety and sound public policy?’” Looney said in his testimony to the Transportation Committee.
A rally will be held at the Capitol on April 29 in an attempt to ignite additional support for the issue.