Lawmakers in Rhode Island are making another attempt to grant driving privileges to immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Similar legislation stalled last year but state Sen. Frank Ciccone, a Providence Democrat, said he hopes to build on the success of a law that took effect in neighboring Connecticut.
He and Democratic state Rep. Anastasia Williams, also of Providence, recently introduced companion bills in the Senate and House that adopt language from the Connecticut law but include “a few more safeguards,” Ciccone said.
Immigrants who apply for the special licenses would have to have lived in Rhode Island for at least two years. The licenses would also be color-coded in a way that distinguishes them from regular driver’s licenses and prevents them from being used as a form of identification.
Ciccone, Williams and co-sponsoring lawmakers were joined on Feb. 24 at a State House rally by dozens of immigrants and advocates.
Gaspar Espinoza of the Providence-based Olneyville Neighborhood Association said the licenses would help those in the country illegally get to their jobs and improve road safety by getting them registered and insured. Immigrants who don’t have lawful U.S. residency can now drive in about a dozen states.
A handful of opponents also mingled in the rally on Feb. 24, silently carrying signs that said, “No driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.”
Terry Gorman of the Central Falls-based Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement said the licenses will be a magnet drawing more illegal immigration.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has voiced support for allowing everyone to get driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. But after initially supporting the idea of signing an executive order allowing the licenses, she has since said that the General Assembly should take it up first.
In a statement, Raimondo said she plans to look into the bills.
“The good news is that because many other states and cities have already done this successfully, there are models we can look at to get something passed,” she said.
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