Sixteen hundred immigrants receive Delaware driving privilege cards

A sample driving privilege card presented by the Division of Motor Vehicles. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

A sample driving privilege card presented by the Division of Motor Vehicles. (Delaware State News/Matt Bittle)

DOVER — About six months after the state launched a program allowing undocumented immigrants to sign up for license-like badges, 1,601 people are now driving with the designated cards.

Legislation passed last year authorized the state to establish driving privilege cards for people living in Delaware illegally. The cards, different from licenses and not valid as a form of identification, allow immigrants who otherwise would not have been able to gain insurance to do so.

Several states, including Maryland and California, have approved similar legislation.

Main sponsor Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, said he saw the issue as a public-safety one and wanted to allow the state to better promulgate the rules of the road.

In Delaware, any undocumented immigrant who does not have a serious criminal history and can present identification and state tax returns is eligible to receive a card.

After public meetings to hash out details, the system was set up, with the state Bureau of Identification hiring three full-time and three seasonal employees to handle the initial workload.

According to Delaware State Police, 4,014 people have formally sought the cards since Dec. 28. Of those requests, 45 were initially denied, although 17 were cleared after later investigations.

The exact number of immigrants who entered Delaware illegally is unknown.

Applicants must take written and driving tests. About two-thirds of the approximately 2,600 people who took the written test failed on the first try, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Of the state’s four DMV locations, the Georgetown facility has seen the most privilege card appointments. Dover has seen the fewest by far.

The DMV offers services for the cards in four languages: Spanish, Creole, Chinese and Korean.

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