Can Illegal Immigrants Get a Driver’s License in Maryland?

Can Illegal Immigrants Get a Driver’s License in Maryland?

The short answer is this: Yes.

In 2013, legislation was passed by Maryland’s legislature to allow illegal immigrants to obtain and keep driver’s licenses. This law repeals the 2009 requirement for proof of legal immigration status to obtain a Maryland driver’s license.

The bill is called the “Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013” and it was introduced to the legislature by Democratic Senator Victor Ramirez. It was instituted in part, as the name suggests, to make Maryland’s roadways safer. By allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, it would allow the DMV to administer tests, and also allow illegal immigrants to hold insurance for their automobiles.

What’s the Long Answer?

While illegal immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses from the state of Maryland, they are not the same as those licenses obtained by those with legal status. Although they look substantially similar, the actual license is not a legal form of identification for someone who is not in the country legally. All licenses obtained without proof of legal status will have a marking on them, indicating this. Therefore, driver’s licenses that are issued to illegal immigrants cannot be used for such purposes as entering a federal buildings or boarding commercial airliners.

In addition to this, there are several other requires, similar to other Maryland residents, that must be met to obtain a Maryland driver’s license. First, one needs to adequately establish that they are indeed a resident of the state of Maryland. In addition, one must satisfactorily prove his or her identity, such as with a passport or birth certificate. Further, one needs to present proof that he or she has filed state income tax for at least the previous two years. On the subject of this last caveat, filing state income taxes retroactively will be sufficient to meet this requirement.

Even with the caveats, the move to allow these licenses was hailed by immigration rights activists. The Washington Post points out that Gustavo Torres, who is the executive director of the Central American Solidarity Association of Maryland, said in a statement regarding the passed of the bill: “Maryland once again prove[s] that despite a broken immigration system, reasonable minds can build safe communities that are knit together by common interests.”

Other Strides that Maryland has Taken

In addition to affording illegal immigrants the right to obtain and own state driver’s licenses, Maryland has also made progress in other arenas. In 2012 the state passed its own version of the DREAM act, the perennially stalled federal bill. In the state’s version of the DREAM act, in-state tuition rates were extended to the children of illegal immigrants living within the state’s borders. The bill had immediate effects, and many in the Maryland education community credit it with the 1% bump in the graduation rate for the academic year ending in June of 2013.

Still, there’s a long way to go with solving the problems of immigration both within the borders of the state of Maryland and in the country at large. In 2012, the Obama administration acted unilaterally to enact parts of the DREAM act that have been stalled in Congress for over a decade. However, the powers of the executive branch are limited, and the reforms that President Obama’s order (called DACA or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) enacted still pale in comparison to the reforms that could be made with a broader and more comprehensive federal approach to immigration.