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Senate Sends Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Bill to Gov’s Desk

by | May 29, 2013 11:29pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Immigration, Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid photo A bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license received final passage Wednesday night as a group of advocates watched from the Senate balcony.

Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, a nonpartisan interfaith group, pushed for the legislation in meetings with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and encouraged them to move forward with it. The organization of about a 15,000 people was founded in 2011, but this was their first full-court press for legislation.

It was an uphill battle. All four bills that would have permitted these drivers’ licenses died in the Transportation Committee, but the organization with the support of Rep. Juan Candelaria of New Haven was determined to find a vehicle for passage.

Christine Stuart photo Rev. James Manship of St. Rose of Lima Church, one of the founding members of CONECT, said the legislation was “not perfect,” but it “moves us ahead.”

It’s not perfect because it doesn’t go into effect until January 2015, Manship said. But he said he understands that the Department of Motor Vehicles is undergoing a significant computer conversion, which made immediate implementation cost-prohibitive. 

According to the fiscal note the implementation of the bill will cost the state $1.3 million in fiscal year 2015 because the DMV will have to hire an additional 18 employees. But the same fiscal note anticipates a revenue gain of $1.5 million in 2015 and $2.8 million in 2016 in drivers license and registration fees.

The licenses will not be available for federal identification purposes, voting, or eligibility for public benefits.

“They are purely for driver identification,” Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said.

The bill passed the House last week 74-55 after more than seven hours of debate. The Senate joined them in passing it 19-16 after nearly six hours of debate. Sens. Paul Doyle and Joan Hartley were the only two Democrats to vote against the measure.

For Jeimy Zepeda and her husband Armando Morales, the issue is personal, not only because they belong to St. Rose of Lima Church, but because they’ve been hit by an unregistered, possibly unlicensed driver who fled the scene of the accident. They got stuck with medical bills as a result when police were never able to track down the driver.

Zepeda and Morales said they’re proud the issue was raised by their church. They said they see how hard it is for some parishioners not to have a drivers’ license in a state that makes it difficult to use public transit.

But not all the Senators were able to see the legislation as a measure to improve road safety.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said in the six months the 9/11 terrorists were tourists “11 of the 19 were able to obtain drivers’ licenses in the United States.”

“When we compare this to the 90 days in which a current illegal immigrant would have to prove residency in order to obtain the issuance of a drivers’ license that is in this bill—one has to stop and pause,” Boucher, an Italian immigrant, said.

She wondered “what would prevent current illegal aliens in committing fraud as simple as offering an incomplete or inaccurate email address to the DMV to prove their 90 day tenure, or by offering a different name?”

Advocates felt the analogy was offensive because it accuses all undocumented immigrants of being criminals, when through no fault of their own they’ve been unable to obtain legal status.

Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, said it’s an issue of safety.

“I wouldn’t want to get in an airplane with a pilot who doesn’t have a license,” Meyer said. “Whether that pilot is an immigrant or not is irrelevant.”

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.

He said the issue is not immigrants it’s safety. And already the hurdles an individual over the age of 16 years old has to go through to obtain a license is arduous.

Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, said the state can’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

LeBeau pointed out that under the bill in order to get a three-year license you have to pass a “knowledge” test which is already given in 21 different languages. He maintained that the number of accidents in other states that allow for this population to obtain licenses has gone down significantly.

“It just increases safety for all of us,” he added.

Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said this is a “modest step” for a population that desires to do things legally.

“We should not allow federal immigration law blind us to the realities that are present in our state,” he said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has expressed his support for the legislation.

“This bill is first and foremost about public safety,” Malloy said in a statement. “It’s about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they’re operating registered, insured vehicles.”

When Malloy signs the bill, Connecticut will join Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and Washington in approving a drivers’ license for undocumented immigrants.

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(24) Archived Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 30, 2013  12:00am

kidding, right?


posted by: CTRICC | May 30, 2013  5:38am

Absolutely, positively ridiculous.  This on top of a higher minimum wage, mandatory sick pay and higher taxes equals the future Detroit.  Time to move South.

posted by: mollyanme | May 30, 2013  6:36am

Our governor and legislators are so arrogant and it is so insulting for them to think that we are so stupid to believe that this is about public safety. We all know that this is all about getting more money (license fees) and securing the vote of minorities. Why do the undocumented aliens get these privileges without having to become citizens?

posted by: dano860 | May 30, 2013  6:48am

So now we need road signs in 21 different languages? We need DMV employees fluent in 21 different languages? It’s bad enough that they now hire Spanish (Puerto Rico dialect) speakers now for just that reason.

posted by: ad_ebay | May 30, 2013  7:25am

Come to Connecticut!  The welfare is good…the wage is high…and the licenses are a stepladder to citizenship!

posted by: ad_ebay | May 30, 2013  7:29am

Instead of giving all ILLEGAL aliens a license to drive…how about fixing the public transportation mess?
The Gold Coast always gets the perks!  A minor train derailment and they open the State Emergency Center and fix the tracks in two days?
Yet we can’t get a bus ride from anywhere to anywhere in this state.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | May 30, 2013  8:52am

Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the Government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian.But Blame youself for this you will vote them back in.

posted by: justsayin | May 30, 2013  9:11am

What do they show for ID?

posted by: Joebigjoe | May 30, 2013  10:48am

Upon further reflection I would be OK with this if after getting a licens as an illegal, if you dont have insurance, you get deported regardless of your situation. However, wont happen because we have no courage in this state to tie benefits and compliance to severe penalties.

posted by: ASTANVET | May 30, 2013  11:41am

Ok, so let me get this straight… “in accordance with the Social Security Act 42 U.S.C. 666 (a) (13), it will be required that the social security number of any person applying for a new Driver’s License, Learner’s Permit or Non-Driver Identification Card be recorded on the application.  If you do not have a social security number, you must obtain a letter from the Social Security Administration that states you are ineligible for a social security number.  This letter must be submitted to DMV when applying for your driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card.” -hat tip to the DMV web site.  So as the SSN is required, how does the state plan to circumvent Federal Law?  give drivers licenses to people who do not have SSN’s - or in other words, you have to be a citizen to obtain a DL.  The state will wind up spending more money on lawsuits again… but i’m really wondering who they are pandering to here… in theory the people they are appeasing are not eligible to vote, nor recieve benefits - so why pander to them?  unless there is another plan out there that we don’t know of…

posted by: Chien DeBerger | May 30, 2013  12:21pm

Future voters for the democrats. One step closer!

posted by: gutbomb86 | May 30, 2013  1:18pm


Seems like a lot of folks who comment here pretty much want to believe that anyone with a different skin color MUST be breaking the law, which is pathetic. The very fact that they bristle at the use of any term other than the misleading and inaccurate “ILLEGAL” shows their true motivation, which is an unamerican, non-inclusive personal ugliness.

As has been said repeatedly here but ignored by belligerent conservatives is the fact that it’s not a crime to be here without citizenship papers. It’s a civil violation that is not punishable by imprisonment.

It takes 9 years to become a citizen. Many of the folks who are discriminated against by conservative commenters on websites are in the process of becoming citizens. Others are here on six month visas, which can be renewed every other six months.

Fact is, unauthorized aliens have every right to seek food, safety, shelter, happiness - things that are taken for granted here in the USA, particularly by those who would label others in anger, particularly by those who would never have the courage to cross a desert on foot with only the water they can carry to find happiness and shelter from a drug war.

Make no mistake about it, americans are the users of the illegal drugs that create the violence in Mexico from which many immigrants are fleeing.

I see these guys often, working in the fields collecting the food we eat, Complainers here are an ungrateful bunch. We need to open the path to citizenship today and allow these folks the option to step out of the shadows. For every unauthorized alien with a bona fide criminal record of violence there are 100s of American citizens with the same crimes either on their sheet or as yet unprosecuted. For every unauthorized alien who has committed crimes of violence there are thousands of authorized aliens who are working harder and longer and for less than their non-criminal American counterparts.

Wake up. Take that ridiculous belligerent rage and place it someplace where it’ll do some good. This country was, and IS, being built on inclusion. We aren’t a landscape of individual homeowner-fiefdoms. We’re a society. Learn to love it.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | May 30, 2013  2:39pm

“Seems like a lot of folks who comment here pretty much want to believe that anyone with a different skin color MUST be breaking the law, which is pathetic.”
Funny how you turn it into a bunch of racists rants.
“Fact is, unauthorized aliens have every right to seek food, safety, shelter, happiness - things that are taken for granted here in the USA..”
So let’s put this in context from your logic; when some one is breaking into your house, raping your wife, stealing your car…they are just going for the American dream huh?

posted by: gutbomb86 | May 30, 2013  3:52pm


@chien - typical response from you there, leaping to the assumption that all undocumented people are rapists. Selective understanding based on your underlying personal motivations. Sad.

posted by: Chien DeBerger | May 30, 2013  4:33pm

Wow! Sympathies sir.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | May 30, 2013  4:37pm

@ gutbomb86 you said For every unauthorized alien who has committed crimes of violence there are thousands of authorized aliens who are working harder and longer and for less than their non-criminal American counterparts.

How do you explain this.

Workers Claim Race Bias as Farms Rely on Immigrants


posted by: dano860 | May 30, 2013  6:29pm

@GB86, many of my Bosnian and Portuguese friends don’t feel that this is a good thing. They have worked hard to get to citizenship, through the legal process. It costs them a bunch of money too. Political pandering to a criminal segment of the State is not the answer.
This past Sunday The Courant had an op-ed article on how undocumented citizens swayed the 2010 census. The authors name is Orlando Rodriquez. He explains how the 2.6 million undocumented residents of California caused the bump up their congressional representatives by two.This gives California 53 votes. The census also allowed 5 other States to gain due to their growth by job relocation of citizens and the undocumented residents. Four of those States are Republican controlled too.
I personally can’t see how this legislation will help the law abiding, tax paying, citizen residents of Connecticut.
I don’t see it as a racial thing either, remember they are talking 21 different languages. In that mix of 21 nationalities there will be a bunch of homogenizing going on. After all we know that Pres. Owebama has Irish relatives.

posted by: gutbomb86 | May 31, 2013  2:06am


criminal segment of the State

Right Dano, they’re all criminals because that’s the only way you and Chien can see them. And yeah yeah, it’s all part of a big conspiracy to funnel millions of people across a deadly desert on foot, through horrific conditions and free-fire drug war zones, all so that democrats can funnel additional votes and gain congressional seats. Right. That’s really plausible.


You’re all living in a fantasy land if you think we’re going to deport more than 10 million people. It’s not going to happen. Wake up. The rational way to proceed here is to bring them out of the shadows and into society. And yes that means eventually more of them will vote. They’re going to move in next door. They’re going to share the shuffleboard and shop in the same stores with you. If you don’t like that, you’re in the wrong country. Maybe if the Republicans could put together a platform that everyone can support, they’ll get more votes.

@threefifths - a better path to citizenship is a path to better wages.

And here’s an idea - more licensed & insured drivers mean more money in the insurance pool, lower rates, etc. - It’s business friendly. There are tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants already driving on the roads in CT. Wake up. They’re not leaving.

posted by: Joebigjoe | May 31, 2013  6:50am

Gutbomb you are right that we arent going to round up and deport all these people. I am all for hard working law abiding people doing jobs that citizens wont take. However, they arent citizens and my opinion is that we shouldnt be subsidizing them in any way if they are here illegally and if they break our rules we should be flying them back home. Its alot cheaper to give them a plane ticket than to put them in jail.

Your comments about insurance risk are fantasy island-like.

posted by: ASTANVET | May 31, 2013  8:35am

One who has not gone through the proper immigration process is here in the country illegally - gutbomb how else would you categorize that?  they have failed to follow established federal immigration laws for border crossing, and or establishing residency in the country.  You should get out more and see how our neighbors to the south handle their immigration.  Mexico has very tough standards, and protects it’s southern border very well - so calling someone illegal - is just the state of their lawful status of residency.  You sir are just an antagonist, by calling people racist and assuming it is all about color - it is about following the law.  If you are against following the law, I would refer you to your previous comments about gun control and how laws prohibiting certain guns will make you safe, unless people don’t follow them… they would be illegally possessing weapons.  I would suggest we remove incentives to illegal residents by stripping any ability to participate in the economy, in the school system, in the functions of state that we (legal tax payers) pay for.  This isn’t a charity - this is a State.  If you want to take in a bunch of illegals and pay their way, that is your right - don’t expect me to, and certainly don’t expect me to want to give them a license!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | May 31, 2013  8:42am

The problem is the politicians who voted for this bill aganist the will of the people who who put them in office.Polls showed that the people of conn said no to this.Also people come to this country every day and get on the list to become citizens.I have inlaws from the carbean who are on the list right now.so why not them.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | May 31, 2013  11:52am

I don’t understand any of this. It’s simple: get legal or get nothing.

We have a process that leads to citizenship, if we want to tinker with that process that would be fine - make it quicker, easier, whatever. But the simple fact of the matter is that if illegals remain illegal - no green card, no citizenship - they should get nothing from the government.


posted by: THREEFIFTHS | May 31, 2013  1:36pm

Check this out.
Looney, Harp Go To Bat For Cyclists.

Under the bill, drivers who kill or seriously injure non-automotive travelers could face up to $1,000 in fines (assuming the victim “exercised reasonable care in using the public way) and/or be required “to attend a driver retraining program and perform community service.”

But both of them voted for Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants.

posted by: dano860 | May 31, 2013  3:21pm

@GB, what is the infatuation with the desert?
Those that cross the southern border with bundles of drugs start out as a big part of the problem.
I still don’t understand how a drivers license in Connecticut helps the poor coyote hiring criminal resident get out of a drug ridden life in a desert.
There are far to many people using the system as they should to give the law breakers any slack or undeserved benefits.

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