“We need it. Communities need it. Women, children, families – will benefit from this bill.”
The Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island kicked off its Driver’s Licenses for All campaign on Tuesday at the State House. Advocates seek to pass S2416 and H7712, which would give undocumented immigrants access to legal driver’s licenses in Rhode Island. 15 states and the District of Columbia already do this. Legislation was passed in New York last year, and the Rhode Island legislation is based in part on the New York law.
This legislation has been introduced every year since Governor Gina Raimondo, who ran on a promise to sign an executive order allowing licenses for undocumented residents broke that pledge and said the General Assembly should pass legislation to make it happen. That legislation has been blocked every year by Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), who actively campaigned on his opposition to the measure.
“We are hoping that this is the year we are able to pass this and provide this very important resource to our community members in Rhode Island,” said Arely Diaz, Lead Organizer of AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance).
“This is not about immigration,” said Senator Frank Ciccone (Democrat, District 7, North Providence). “Immigration should be handled in Washington DC… This is about making the public safe.”
“Folks are risking their livelihoods, they’re risking their freedom, they’re risking it all – just to get their kids to school, get their kids to a doctor’s appointment, just to get to work and come back home,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “This is an impossible choice that we’re asking families to make every single year just to seek out the American dream just as every generation of immigrants who have come to this country have sought.”
“Currently, I am trying to start my own business cleaning houses, but this has been made very difficult because I don’t have a car or a license, because I am undocumented,” said Isabely Garcia an organizer with AMOR. Limited to Uber to get where she has to go, Garcia pays about $240 to get to and from work every week.
“How long is too long?” asked Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence). “Another year and still it isn’t done.”
“In Rhode Island driving is critical to access medical and social services, getting to work and participating in community life,” said Reverend Santiago Rodriguez of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. “Driving is a basic necessity in Rhode Island, especially for families with children.”
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“As an immigrant from Columbia, I am in support of licenses for immigrants whether or not they have legal status,” said Juan Carlos Velez a member of SEIU 32BJ. “While I am not undocumented, I understand first hand the struggle some of our working families have to carry out their day-to-day activities without a driver’s license.”
“One of the most common requests we get through the AMOR support line is to help people in the undocumented community with transportation, especially women with children so they can go to work or school, or make court dates and appointments with lawyers,” said Cata Lorenzo, Director of AMOR. “We need it. Communities need it. Women, children, families – will benefit from this bill.”