ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate on Monday passed a measure that would allow illegal immigrants to continue to have driver’s licenses.
The Senate voted 29-18 to approve the measure. It now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.
Maryland law currently allows drivers who are in the country illegally to obtain a second-tier driver’s license. That practice is set to expire unless the General Assembly passes a bill that repeals a 2015 deadline for undocumented immigrants to get rid of their Maryland driver’s licenses.
Supporters of the measure say the licenses will make the state’s roads safer.
“We want people to be licensed. We want people to go through the proper channels. We want people to have car insurance,” Sen. Victor Ramirez, D-Prince George’s County, the bill’s sponsor, said. “If passed, I know that this bill would make our streets and highways safer.”
Opponents of the legislation say that the bill could turn Maryland into a haven for illegal immigrants.
“You don’t grant legitimacy for a person that’s not here legitimately. It’s a way to try and skirt the rules,” said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick County. “You can’t make a Maryland a sanctuary state.”
To apply for a license, applicants must show proof of identification such as a passport or a birth certificate and provide two years of state income tax filings to prove residency. They would also have to pass a written test and a driving exam before getting behind the wheel.
The second-tier licenses would afford illegal immigrants all the rights of a Maryland driver, but would be stamped across the top as not legal for federal uses, such as entering federal buildings.
Advocates for the measure such as the ACLU of Maryland lauded the vote, saying that without the ability to drive, people cannot perform basic daily functions such as taking their children to and from school or to the doctor.