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House Green Lights Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

by Christine Stuart | May 23, 2013 5:40am
(20) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Economics, Equality, Immigration, Law Enforcement

Christine Stuart photo

Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven

Connecticut voters may not be ready according to polling data, but that didn’t stop the House from pushing forward with a vote on a billthat would give undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain a driver’s license.

After more than seven hours of debate the House passed the measure on a 74-55 vote around 5:45 a.m.

For some it was an issue of public safety. For others it was an indication that the federal government needs to move faster toward comprehensive immigration reform.

Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, introduced the bill. He said the legislation is about public safety and bringing the immigrant community out of the shadows.

As of 2010, nearly 120,000 unauthorized immigrants resided in Connecticut, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. About 54,000 of them currently drive on Connecticut roads without documentation, according to research by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.

The bill would give undocumented immigrants living in the state for more than 90 days the option to apply for a driver’s license. The application process would include a sworn affidavit to seek U.S. citizenship. If an individual was convicted of a felony in the state of Connecticut, they would not be allowed to receive a license.The license would be renewed every three years as opposed to every six years for U.S. citizens.

A Republican amendment to expand the felony background checks to include more than just the state of Connecticut failed.

Candelaria said the bill is about the child who testified in March at Wilbur Cross High School and said he’s fearful for his mother who drives and is undocumented. He said the child’s biggest fear was becoming homeless if his mother was arrested and deported.

Republican lawmakers who said they wanted to allow undocumented workers get their licenses questioned Candelaria for more than seven hours about residency requirements, background checks, and insurance requirements.

Not one person spoke against measure at that five-hour public hearing before the Transportation Committee. But none of the four bills proposed made it through the committee, forcing proponents to tack it onto a generic motor vehicle bill.

The partisan divide over the bill stood in stark contrast to a vote earlier in the day that would prohibit, under some circumstances, any law enforcement officer in the state from telling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that they detained an undocumented immigrant. That bill cleared the House 132-0 with less than a half-hour of debate Wednesday.

House Minority Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, was not pleased with how the bill was developed or the process by which it ended up on the House floor Wednesday evening.

Cafero said he asked Candelaria if he could work on the bill with him. He suggested that the legislature form a task force and study the issue until next legislative session. He argued it could still be implemented by the 2015 date in the bill debated Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Cafero said his proposition was rejected.

Candelaria said the bill is about public safety. He said it is anticipated that there will be a reduction in the number of violations for driving without a license. In 2012, there were 742 violations for driving without a license that generated $84,000 in revenue.

Christine Stuart photo But Cafero said that by not giving Republicans a seat at the table, it became a political issue and “that stinks because there are a lot of people here who want to do this and do it the right way.”

He questioned an appearance by Democratic State Central Committee Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and DSCC Executive Director Jonathan Harris. A spokesman for House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said the duo were not at the Capitol to speak about this legislation, a statement Harris confirmed Thursday morning.

“We would say we are disappointed in Rep. Cafero and the House for opposing such a common sense public safety policy, but it comes as little surprise since the CT GOP is more a Party of Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Rick Perry and Rush Limbaugh than of Yankee Republicans like Prescott Bush,” Harris said.

But Cafero said “this is all about votes and politics.”

On the public policy side, Cafero argued that there still isn’t enough information about the number of people this bill would impact and what it would cost the state to hire new Department of Motor Vehicle workers to handle the licensing. He said the study would give the members of the legislature time to educate themselves and the public about this issue. But proponents felt that was an attempt to slow the process.

“The federal law is broken,” Cecilio Ceario of St. Rose of Lima Church and CONECT said. “We have many members of our parish that have been here on a work permit for 10 to 20 years and cannot have a license.”

He said these are people who want to register their vehicle and take responsibility for their actions. He said the public would be shocked at how much some undocumented workers have to pay in order to register their vehicles through Connecticut residents.

Ceario was one of a handful of advocates who watched the House vote from the balcony Thursday morning.

“This should be addressed in a comprehensive manner, not a rushed through piece of legislation,” Rep. Richard Smith, R-New Fairfield, said. “The bill is based on a promise, a hope, a prayer and nothing more.”

He said states that have passed similar legislation have mandated registration and the purchase of insurance.

According to the Office of Legislative Research, there are now four states with statutes or regulations that implicitly give undocumented immigrants access to driving privileges: Illinois, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. Seven states have reversed the decision to give undocumented workers driver’s licenses.

Cafero said the study could be completed before the start of next year’s legislative session and it wouldn’t impact the legislation that is expected to go into effect in January 2015.

But the issue has drawn crowds larger than 2,000 to public hearings on the bill and dozens more to rallies at the state Capitol. There was no organized opposition to the bills.

Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, who introduced two of the four bills, has said that undocumented immigrants are going to drive with or without a license.

“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 before the Transportation Committee.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. who implemented a citywide ID program for undocumented immigrants in 2007, applauded passage of the bill.

“Like the municipal ID, granting immigrants driver licenses regardless of immigration status is good policy,” DeStefano said in a statement.

But voters aren’t quite there yet.

A Quinnipiac University poll in March found that 65 percent of voters oppose giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses. Only 31 percent approve of the idea. An unscientific New Haven Independent poll came up with similar results. According to that poll 64.16 percent of more than 3,000 voters oppose the idea and 25.75 percent supported it.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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(20) Comments

posted by: redlady | May 23, 2013  6:18am

It doesn’t matter to the CT General Assembly’s majority that 65% of citizens did approve of this agenda - they continue to ignore that fact and, since it carries the power, it will continue on unleased and never held accountable.

posted by: cricket23 | May 23, 2013  7:14am

Previously deported illegal alien charged with his 6th DUI

Dave Gibson, Immigration Reform Examiner

Boxboro, MA - On Saturday, police arrested Eduardo Alementa Torres, 48,
during a routine traffic stop. The officer spotted an open bottle of beer in
the vehicle and smelled the strong odor of alcohol on Torres.

Read rest of story

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 23, 2013  7:38am

DrHunterSThompson

It’s a world gone looney!

HST

posted by: Noteworthy | May 23, 2013  7:55am

This is about politics and is yet another fine example of what’s wrong with the General Assembly. The public may not support it but hey, that doesn’t stop the General Assembly. The first reason to pass this law is that it will reduce the number of tickets from driving without a license. So illegal immigrants won’t get tagged for no license, but what about no insurance? Why can’t the GOP participate? Why does it have to be lopsided?

Rep. Juan Candelaria should address this and why the net result is the same. Don’t bother, it’s just politics.

posted by: ASTANVET | May 23, 2013  8:17am

WOW - can’t the CGA go on vacation already!!! another damaging piece of legislation that will have second and third order effects… VOTE ALL OF THEM OUT!

posted by: dea | May 23, 2013  9:16am

Just whom does the legislature represent, undocumented immigrants or the legal residents of the state. When polling shows 65% of voters are opposed to a piece of legislation it appears that the legislature is completely out of touch with the people they represent.

posted by: Nutmeg87 | May 23, 2013  9:22am

Unbelievable….

Is CT looking to leave the Republic? 

First the sacking of the 2nd Amendment…  Now forget the US immigration laws & let all the illegal aliens migrate from Texas to CT!!!!  Malloy will borrow more $$$ and give everyone who is obviously illegal and cannot maintain a legitimate job (& pay taxes) free auto insurance also !!!

Wowww….  We already have the HIGHEST DEBT/Capita in the nation…  Who’s gonna pay for all this ????

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | May 23, 2013  9:34am

The argument about road safety relies on a faulty assumption that if illegal aliens are legally licensed to drive, they will all have accident insurance. But even if a state requires automobile insurance as a condition of getting a license, that does not keep an illegal alien from canceling the policy the next day. Illegal aliens generally are working in low-wage jobs and have difficulty affording insurance, and their cars are frequently older and more accident-prone. Additionally, illegal aliens often are not able to read road alerts in English. In many of the countries from which illegal aliens come, it is standard practice for motorists involved in accidents to flee the scene. The combination of these factors adds up to the probability that, if more illegal aliens were encouraged to drive by issuing them driver’s licenses, it would lead to more accidents caused by uninsured motorists and many would be hit and run.

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | May 23, 2013  9:51am

The argument is that this will enable them to buy insurance etc. as if they were bona fide residents.  However, the primary fact (conveniently ignored) is that they are not legal permanent residents.  If they were here on short term visas, their home country license is accepted in most all jurisdictions. So there is no legal or process justification for ignoring existing laws.

posted by: lkulmann | May 23, 2013  10:00am

This sounds like a plan to me. Its proactive. These people are here and they need to be recognized legally. If you want to drive legally, you need to provide legal documentation that you are seeking citizenship AND you will be watched more closely to make sure its done. A no brainer. The only problem I see is the enforcement part. CT has lots of policies and laws and rules that are beautifully written, but everyone marches to the beat of their own drum. T’s are crossed i’s are dotted on paper but implementation gets fuzzy somehow. Its like someone in authority says ‘yes that is the law BUT this is the way we do things around here’  and when you think about challenging CT ‘authority’ you can kiss your career good bye ... poor for morale really…

posted by: joemanc | May 23, 2013  10:51am

If I’m reading this right, based on what Looney said that they are going to drive no matter what, then an undocumented immigrant who is driving around now without a license probably doesn’t have car insurance either…which means, the people who do the right thing by buying car insurance are screwed if they get hit and injured by one of these folks. You hear these politicians talk about feeling compassion for these folks - how about the rest of us who do the right thing and abide by the law? It’s just not fair anymore.

posted by: ad_ebay | May 23, 2013  12:11pm

Someone please show me an “undocumented alien” who pays taxes!
If I go to Portugal…refuse to learn the language…and demand welfare and other “rights” because I’ve lived there for a while, Think I’d get it?
Yet another liberal “good idea”.

posted by: redlady | May 23, 2013  12:24pm

Correction on my first comment:  65% does NOT approve.  Please contact your State Senator NOW and try to stop this from going thru.  Why did 21 of the House members not vote on this?  Had those been no votes this would not have passed the house. Was yours one “missing in action”?

posted by: Chien DeBerger | May 23, 2013  1:40pm

Next is the right to vote.

posted by: GuilfordResident | May 23, 2013  3:09pm

Soft-despotism this is ... soft-despotism. Voting rights will be next.

posted by: wmwallace | May 23, 2013  10:27pm

Doing the will of the people has escaped these legislator. Of course they think they know better than us poor taxpayers.

posted by: justsayin | May 24, 2013  8:11am

This is wrong on soo many levels. I have not heard one sustainable, convincing argument as to why this should be done? Why is it being done?

posted by: CTResidentForLife | May 24, 2013  8:27am

What they hell is going on in Connecticut?  74-55 vote around 5:45 a.m. ???

Why?

The Democrats are simply being political and there are much more important items they simply ignore.

I cannot wait to leave the banana republic called Connecticut.

I’m out of here as soon as I can leave.

posted by: lkulmann | May 25, 2013  11:34am

No Brainer ~ This is a good thing. It really is if its done right. Do illegal aliens get deported if they don’t become citizens in 3 years? Idk how long it takes to get citizenship. Also, for those who don’t want a drivers license or citizenship, what happens to them?

posted by: lkulmann | May 25, 2013  11:44am

People who complain about State lawmakers not representing the CT residents are absolutely right. I feel like my voice is not heard and I’m screaming! If every mayor in every town held public meetings and relayed our voices to the state lawmakers, at least we get the feeling that we are being heard. I hate being ignored. Its rude :/