A Pennsylvania organization, Driving PA Forward, gathered on the steps of the state capitol building in Harrisburg last week to support House Bill 279. If passed, the bill will expand the right for undocumented individuals to obtain drivers licenses in Pennsylvania. Advocates stress that increased licensing of undocumented individuals will provide key relief to undocumented persons, expand insurance coverage, and make Pennsylvania roads safer.
Roadblocks for Undocumented Individuals
Over 11 million undocumented individuals currently reside in the United States, approximately 900,000 of whom live in Pennsylvania. As these individuals navigate the complicated immigration system, they continue to work and support their families. However, under current Pennsylvania law, an individual must provide proof of lawful status in the United States to apply for a learner’s permit or a driver’s license. For that reason, undocumented individuals in Pennsylvania must break the law just to drive to work each day.
This law prevents undocumented individuals not only from legally using the roads, but also from obtaining insurance coverage. Recently, an organization has begun to fight to expand licensing to all Pennsylvanians, regardless of lawful status. Their efforts have already made their way to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Driving PA Forward
Driving PA Forward has taken this issue straight to those who can fix it. The coalition is composed of businesses, community organizations, labor groups, and faith-based advocates who work together to support the “passage of legislation regarding accessibility of a standard driver’s license with strict privacy and data protections for all Pennsylvanians regardless of immigration status.” By engaging in grassroots methods, including letters and phone calls to lawmakers, the coalition seeks to bring this issue to the attention of lawmakers in Pennsylvania.
House Bill 279
On a brisk December morning, the organization gathered on the steps of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg to voice their support for House Bill 279, which proposes an amendment to current law that eliminates the requirement that an individual provide proof of lawful status to receive a driver’s license. First proposed on January 27, 2021, the bill was introduced in the General Assembly and has since been referred to the Committee on Transportation, where it remains. The bill currently has 44 co-sponsors from lawmakers across Pennsylvania.
According to a recent article by Erie News Now, advocates cite a number of reasons they support the proposal, including that expansion of licensing would increase safety and accountability for drivers on the road in Pennsylvania. Specifically, advocates note that expanding licensing would increase the number of insured drivers on the roads and even boost local economies. Moreover, the coalition points to the increased identification of individuals as helpful to first responders in the event of a medical emergency.