Undocumented immigrants living in Maryland may now begin applying for drivers’ licenses, regardless of their immigration status. To be eligible, you must be a resident of Maryland, have filed your Maryland income taxes for the past two years, and pass a written test and driving test. Undocumented immigrants can begin the process of applying as soon as today, however, these new drivers’ licenses will not be issued until January 1, 2014.
Although the driver’s license can serve as a form of identification for state purposes, it cannot be used as a form of ID for federal purposes. For example, it cannot be used to board an airplane or vote in elections. This is because under the REAL ID act, in order for a driver’s license to be recognized for federal use, it required that states request evidence of lawful status of the person applying:
- “is a citizen or national of the United States;
- is an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or
temporary residence in the United States;
- has conditional permanent resident status in the
- has an approved application for asylum in the United
States or has entered into the United States in refugee
- has a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant visa or
nonimmigrant visa status for entry into the United States;
- has a pending application for asylum in the United
- has a pending or approved application for temporary
protected status in the United States;
- has approved deferred action status; or
- has a pending application for adjustment of status to
that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence
in the United States or conditional permanent resident
status in the United States.”
Recently, states have been skirting these REAL ID act requirements by creating drivers’ licenses that indicate that they are not intended for federal use. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington have similarly passed laws giving undocumented immigrants access to drivers’ licenses.
Each year thousands of immigrants are detained for driving without a license and then referred to Immigration Court because they can’t obtain a driver’s license but need to get to work and drop off their children at school or daycare. With an increasing number of states extending limited driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, this should help reduce the number of non-criminal aliens being deported annually, leaving DHS with more resources to focus on their stated enforcement priorities of criminal and dangerous aliens.