New Vt. Law: Driver Card for Undocumented Workers

In less than a week, on January 1, undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for a Vt. driver’s privilege card.
In less than a week, on January 1, undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for a Vt. driver’s privilege card. It was part of a bill that passed the legislature earlier this year.

Supporters say the bill allows undocumented immigrants to get around, which in turn can make their life here better. But opponents say driving is a *privilege* that should not be extended to those here illegally.

Starting on New Year’s Day, all it will take is proof of address, a birth certificate and a driver’s test for undocumented immigrants to be able to drive in Vermont.

"People who fit this population base will now be eligible to first take the learners permit test and then drive legally,” said Robert Ide, Vermont DMV Commissioner.

Ide says there could be about 3,000 people in the state who could benefit from this new law.

"At this point, a few days out before the program launches, we're feeling like we have the capacity to fill the need. We'll see how that goes over the first six weeks of the program. We're cautiously optimistic that things will go very smoothly,” said Ide.

The bill came about from the Vermont Migrant Justice center. The aim was to help undocumented immigrants who work on Vermont farms feel less isolated and able to get their basic needs met.

The bill was controversial when it passed this spring. Still, only two people voted against it in the Senate.

One of them was Republican State Senator Norman McAllister of Franklin County.

"I just felt we were rewarding bad behavior. Driving is a privilege and not a right and that was my biggest sticking point. When does it stop? When are we saying 'This is too far?' To me, this was too far,” said State Senator Norman McAllister.

But come January it will be law. Officials say getting the card will not lead to deportation.

"We're very sure that that's not going to happen. We will have a database for sure that is a Vermont-based database. It's not available for others to infiltrate electronically,” said Ide.

Vermont is the first New England state to pass such a bill, but sixth in the country. The card will not act as a federal ID. It would only allow people to drive.

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