Maryland and Oregon are celebrating the signing of new laws expanding access to driver's licenses to all residents, including undocumented immigrants. We are part of a movement. Our hope is that our success inspires the passage of bills in more than a dozen other states considering similar measures.
In most states today, it is difficult, if not impossible, for people to go about their daily lives without the ability to drive. Simple but essential tasks such as driving kids to school or to extracurricular activities, picking up groceries, going to the doctor, and traveling to workbecome riddled with hardship. As a result, people without access to driver's licenses are faced with the difficult "choice" of either not meeting their basic needs or driving and risking arrest and other negative repercussions.
Against this backdrop, having a driver's license can provide critical protection for immigrants' civil rights. Across the country, immigrants are subjected to harassment, racial profiling, and needless arrest and detention by law enforcement officials who use driving without a license to route aspiring citizens into deportation proceedings. Many immigrants have been driven into the shadows as a result, living in fear of these consequences every time they find themselves compelled to get behind the wheel of a car. At least in Maryland and Oregon, they will now be able to get driver's licenses—and having a drivers' license means no longer having to live with that fear.