Group works out details of driving privilege cards for ‘undocumented immigrants’

DOVER — A new program that allows individuals unlawfully living in Delaware to gain driving privilege cards is set to launch around the end of the year.

The Delaware Hispanic Commission’s Transportation Subcommittee met for two hours Tuesday, discussing the obstacles remaining as the Division of Motor Vehicles prepares to implement the law.

Transportation and law enforcement officials met with immigrant activists to hash out details and discuss how they plan to spread awareness.

The program comes from a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and signed into law in June.

It allows for “undocumented immigrants,” as the text states, to gain a permit separate from a driver’s license. This card, known as a driving privilege card, cannot be used for identification and is intended to allow individuals unlawfully living in Delaware to gain insurance and learn the rules of the road.

Eleven other states, ranging from Maryland to California, have similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Supporters claim the law will benefit everyone by providing greater awareness of traffic guidelines and increasing the number of insured motorists.

Individuals hoping to gain a driving privilege card must get their fingerprints taken and provide acceptable identification, tax returns and proof of residency. Fingerprints can be taken by the State Bureau of Identification starting Dec. 27. The DMV will accept a foreign passport or consular card for identification. Participants must also have Delaware tax returns for the past two years, as well as two recent pieces of business mail.

Those who present the necessary information to the DMV will then be able to take a knowledge and a driving test.

Passing both earns them a driving privilege card. The actual card resembles a driver’s license but is a different color and states it is not a valid form of identification on it.

Full details will soon be available on the DMV’s website, and both the DMV and several nonprofits plan to try to share knowledge about the program to increase participation.

Exactly how many people will obtain such a card is unknown, DMV Director Scott Vien said, noting it could be a large number. About 40,000 people in Delaware have a valid Mexican passport, he said.

A driving privilege card will cost $20, and getting fingerprints done costs $52.50. Individuals who have previously been issued citations for driving without a license or other violations may have to pay an additional sum.

Trust is key, committee members stressed Tuesday. Many individuals who are in the country illegally are hesitant to present themselves to the government for fear they will be arrested, but that will not happen, speakers said. With the exception of men and women who have outstanding warrants for crimes, individuals will be able to obtain a driving card without being harassed.

Word of mouth will be very important in drawing people to the program, committee members said.

“Whenever we find one that’s willing to be a face, we might be able to use them as an example,” said Monserrat Celayos-Martinez, an advocate with the Sussex County bicultural community center La Esperanza.
Javier Torrijos, the chairman of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, agreed.

“Once they get that fingerprint, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” he said.

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