Rhode Island to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants

Rhode Island lawmakers are set to have another try at giving undocumented immigrants driving privileges. Legislation attempting similar reform was attempted last year to no avail, but Providence Democrat, Senator Frank Ciccone, says that a similar law has now been enacted in neighboring Connecticut and he wants to try to build on that success.

Together with Democratic State Representative Anastasia Williams, Ciccone introduced companion bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate recently that include language used in the Connecticut law but with “a few more safeguards”, according to Ciccone. Immigrants need to have lived for at least two years in Rhode Island before they are eligible to put in an application to receive one of the special licenses.

The driving licenses will be color coded to make sure they are distinguishable from ordinary driver’s licenses and will not be able to be used as identification. Dozens of immigrants and their advocates joined Ciccone, Williams and other lawmakers who co-sponsored the legislation at a State House rally on February 24, although there were also a number of people who were opposed to the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to possess driver’s licenses.

Terry Gorman for Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, which is based in Central Falls, says the licenses would only encourage undocumented immigrants to come to the state. However, Gaspar Espinoza from the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, which is based in Providence, says they would improve road safety for all by making sure immigrants were registered and insured.