Driving Privilege Could be extended to Delaware Non-citizens - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Driving Privilege in Del. Could be Extended to Illegal Immigrants

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(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

DOVER, Del.- A legislative task force is considering giving undocumented immigrants permission to drive in the First State. In this plan, being considered by the 27 members of this task force, these undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for "driving privilege cards."

These cards would only be used for recognition within a car, and only within the state of Delaware. They would also mandate that these immigrants take written and vision exams before receiving access. The idea has received mixed opinions from members of the task force. 

One of those task force members is Claudia Peña Porretti, the executive director of La Esperanza in Georgetown. She met with WBOC Monday morning, and said the change would help not just those immigrants, but every citizen of Delaware. 

"It would give comfort to all drivers," she said. "Because at some point if you are involved in an accident, you would want to know who is driving."

She said there are currently many undocumented immigrants driving without any identification at all. This creates a safety risk for many other citizens, she said. 

Georgetown Police Chief William Topping is also on this task force, and has the unique perspective of running a department that overseas a heavy immigrant population. He said that despite common belief, driving is not a right meant for everyone. 

"Everybody understands or should understand that driving is a privilege," he said. "It's not a right." 

He said he had concerns about dispersing these new cards to undocumented immigrants, because he thought it could lead to abuse. 

"I'm looking at this from a police point of view," he said. "And the police point of view is - I need to know who I'm talking to. And I think that when you issue a drivers privilege card to someone with no supporting documentation, we still don't know who we're talking to." 

He pointed out that if this were to work, they would have to mandate proof of identity for these immigrants, such as a birth certificate. He said this could be problematic though for many people who came from other countries without these records. 

On top of the concerns for abuse, former Mayor of Georgetown and Republican Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, said he had other concerns as well. Pettyjohn told WBOC that issuing this card would be extending a privilege to someone who was in the state illegally in the first place. 

But Dolores Aguilar of Georgetown who came to Delaware from Guatemala 9 years ago said the policy would help many of her friends. She said she knew many undocumented immigrants, many of whom chose to drive, despite knowing of the law. She said the cards would just lead to better regulation of these drivers. 

"They don't have permission, but they are driving," she said in Spanish. "But there is a risk with this. So it's not like they're waiting for a permit."

But for task force leaders like Topping and Pettyjohn, they said it would be far better to spend time opening up to the roads to those who immigrated legally than to do so for those who did not. Task force leaders said they expect to present their findings by late October.


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