Indiana could become the 19th state to allow undocumented qualified individuals to obtain drivers licenses in the respective state.
On February 7, 2023, the Committee on Homeland Security and Information narrowly passed a resolution that would grant undocumented immigrants in Indiana driving card privileges, allowing them to possess a legal state driver’s license if they are able to meet specific requirements. The resolution, SB 248, moved forward to the Committee on Appropriations, where it currently sits, by a 5-4 vote.
SB 248 has garnered widespread support from individuals and groups across the state, including the Indiana Motor Truck Association, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, the Indiana Farm Bureau, the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Indiana State Poultry Association, the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network, and all the local community members advocating for their city councilmembers to support SB 248.
Despite having a favorable initial reading, the chances of SB 248 getting passed this year are slim and some senators even expect to see it on the floor again in 2024. The mayor of Warsaw, Indiana, Joe Thallemer, also voiced in a Times Union Online article that the bill has not advanced out of caucus as of February 21, 2023. This means that the timeline on passing this bill may not occur as quickly as many communities hope, if at all.
What does SB 248 mean for immigrants in Indiana?
This bill, if enacted into law, would provide an undocumented Indiana resident, who cannot provide proof of identity and legal status in the U.S., driving privileges, under the condition that the individual is able to pass the application to obtain a driving privilege card. As outlined in SB 248, this card cannot be used for voting, employment, or any state or federal purpose other than driving privilege identification.
The bill also protects individuals holding a driving privilege card from the bureau of motor vehicles. Unless mandated by a lawful court order or presented with a judicial warrant, the agency is not allowed to disclose sensitive information about the driving privilege card holder. The bill would also place additional responsibility on these card holders to continuously verify and financially maintain their motor vehicles, which some of the bill’s supporters hope will decrease accidents on the road.
If the bill passes, Indiana would be joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington in allowing qualified undocumented immigrants to obtain driving licenses in their state. The most recent state to join the list is Rhode Island, having passed SB 2006 / HB 7939 in 2022, to be effective starting July 1, 2023.
What are opponents saying about SB 248?
While opponents of this bill expressed concern over roads becoming more dangerous with immigrants having driving privileges, the states that began offering driver’s licenses to immigrants actually saw an improvement in overall traffic safety. After the State of California enacted AB 60 in 2015, individuals who could not obtain a Social Security number could now be issued driver’s licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles as long as the required documentation is provided.
In a 2017 study done at Stanford University on the effect of AB 60, researchers found that the legislation helped to reduce the potential for a hit-and-run accident, resulting in lower costs and improved traffic safety for California drivers. In other words, this policy didn’t increase traffic accidents, but rather, the likelihood of drivers taking more financial responsibility.
With a driving privilege card, undocumented immigrants will have greater mobility and comfort to improve their lives. We at the Law Offices of Wiliani-Malek understand first-hand the struggles that immigrants face in America, and sympathize with those who lack the documentation to effectively live and work in the U.S. To ensure the greatest chance of success with your immigration case, consult with our experienced immigration attorney today by calling +1 (714) 432-1333.