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Could Driver's Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants Split Democrats in January?

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Should undocumented immigrants be able to get a Virginia driver’s license? That’s a question members of the General Assembly will be tackling in January.

For years, Republicans in the General Assembly have stood in the way of efforts to allow undocumented immigrants to get Virginia driver’s licenses.

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says that harms the safety of everybody because those drivers are going to be on the road whether they have a license or not — without training, testing or insurance. 

“It’s important that we make sure everybody knows that they can stay at an accident, that they’re not going to get in trouble just because they don’t have the ability to get a license," Goren explains. "And there’s evidence from other states that hit-and-run accidents decrease when people are more able to get driver’s licenses.”

Only 13 states and D.C. allow undocumented drivers to get licenses, which makes Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington skeptical that Virginia will be the 14th state to do this. 

“Since only a few states have established rules that allow for licenses for undocumented drivers, it is likely to be a bridge too far for the Virginia Democratic majority," Farnsworth says. "Right now I think they’re at a maybe.”

This is an issue to watch in the upcoming General Assembly session because it might end up dividing the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.