Mattiello Warns Raimondo Against Executive Order for Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


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Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello

Rhode Island Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello has issued a warning to Governor Gina Raimondo that any new efforts to consider licenses for undocumented immigrants should be taken up by the General Assembly - and not issued through an executive order.

Raimondo, who supported providing undocumented immigrants with drivers licenses during last year's gubernatorial campaign, recently indicated that she was moving forward addressing the possibility in Rhode Island, as reported by WJAR 10's Bill Rappleye.

“I have not seen a proposal the Governor may have regarding driver’s licenses.  However, I strongly believe this is a legislative matter and should not be done through an executive order," said Mattiello.  "The legislative process is designed to be open and transparent and include public input.  An executive order would be inappropriate because it would deprive the public of a voice.  If legislation is introduced next year, we will hold a televised public committee hearing.  This will enable me and all House members to formulate a position once we listen to the public’s testimony and review the merits of the legislation.”

On Tuesday, the Governor's office indicated it is eyeing how to pursue making the licenses a reality in Rhode Island, but provided few details, or timeline. 

"The Governor supports providing licenses for undocumented Rhode Island residents and remains committed to pursuing a solution," said Marie Aberger in the Governor's office. "She has a team across state agencies working on this, but no decisions have been made on timing or process at this time."

National Status -- and Implications

Nationally, over a dozen states have passed legislation to date to allow undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain drivers licenses.

The National Council on State Legislatures wrote in July:

{Twelve states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driver’s licenses. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state. Eight of these states extended driving privileges in 2013. In 2015, Delaware and Hawaii enacted legislation to give unauthorized immigrants driving privileges.

In 2013, Oregon enacted S833 that provided driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. In 2014, voters approved ballot Measure 88 and suspended the law by 67 to 33 percent.

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Raimondo has been on the record in support since her campaign for the issue in Rhode Island, stating the following in an ACLU questionnaire last year:

"I was the first candidate in the gubernatorial race to explicitly call for drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. This is an issue of fairness and public safety," said Raimondo. 

Some groups, however, question the costs associated with such a move. 

"If there aren't new insurance pools, there's still the possibility that there will be separate DMV offices created just to accommodate the influx of illegal aliens who will request them, as happened in California recently," said Jon Feere with the national Center for Immigration Studies.  "Recall, too, that many people will sign up just to get the licenses for ID purposes -- not necessarily because they want to drive. Here's what California did:

'To accommodate that expected influx of new drivers, the state’s DMV is setting up five facilities throughout California. The facilities will be opened in the areas of San Jose, the South Central Coast, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego...'

Feere continued:

"This is a cost to taxpayers. Additionally, California saw a much larger number of people apply causing a change in hours to accommodate the influx. The Sacramento Bee had this headline: "Over half of new California driver’s licenses go to undocumented immigrants". In the article: 'I think it was a surprise how many people actually came in in the first six months," said Jessica Gonzalez, a DMV spokeswoman.

California has a much larger illegal alien population, of course, but one reason for the influx, in my opinion, is that they accept all sorts of evidence of identity -- virtually nobody is going to be denied. And this means illegal aliens in other states may be crossing the border to get them. Looking at what Rhode Island requires as evidence of identity to get a license might be a whole story in itself. Any discussion of the unverifiable matricula consular or other foreign IDs should raise red flags."


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