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Rhode Island debates immigrant driver’s licenses

Tomorrow the House of Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a Rhode Island driver’s license. To get a license, undocumented applicants would have to show proof that they’ve lived in the state and paid two years of taxes. The driver’s license obtained under this bill would not be a valid form of identification.

Last year, Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello campaigned to block the legislation, arguing that it didn’t have the support of most Rhode Island citizens or lawmakers.

Governor Gina Raimondo supported the idea during her campaign, and proponents of the bill say it would increase safety on the road by insuring that all drivers are trained and tested.

Michael Araujo, Executive Director of RI Jobs with Justice, is part of the Coalition for Safer Rhodes, which supports the bill. Araujo says that without legal drivers licenses, undocumented workers are socially and economically limited

“Undocumented workers are such a significant contributor to the economic health of Rhode Island. To restrict this obviously very creative, very resilient, and very smart population from full economic activity in the state is to really put a shackle on everyone else that lives here”, Araujo said.

Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia offer special licenses to undocumented immigrants. If Rhode Island’s bill passes, it will go into effect in 2018.

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