New law creates driving privilege for undocumented

After a year of statewide deliberation, Senate Bill 59 has been adopted, creating a driving privilege card option for undocumented residents of the state.

The sponsor of the bill was state Sen. Bryan Townsend. The additional bi-partisan sponsors were state Sen. Robert I. Marshall, state Rep. Helene Keeley and state Rep. Joe Miro. Co-sponsors were state Reps. Michael A. Barbieri, Paul S. Baumbach, John A. Kowalko, Stephanie T. Bolden and Sean M. Lynn, and state Sens. David B. McBride and F. Gary Simpson.

A 50-agency coalition called Coalition United for Safer Roads for All Delawareans led the yearlong campaign to create the driving privilege card. At the request of the Delaware Hispanic Commission (DHC), Gov. Jack Markell approved the request to form the Undocumented Motorist Safety & Insurance Task Force, consisting of 25 members — law enforcement, Homeland Security, Division of Motor Vehicles, Latino organizations, insurance corporations and others — to study how to provide an alternative driving card for the estimated 35,000 undocumented adults in Delaware.

Mothers with infants in their arms and youngsters at their legs came to testify for the bill. Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, chair of the Community Social Justice Subcommittee for the DHC, said, “Their plea was real, and they moved legislators’ hearts.”

On the evening of June 30, in Legislative Hall, the legislature voted final approval of Senate Bill 59 on Driving Privilege Cards. As courtesy to more than 100 Latino families who came to witness the event, Markell announced that he would sign the bill that night. After a half-hour of preparation, he invited his cabinet, legislative leaders on the bill and Latinos to join him for the signing ceremony.

The bill becomes operational in six months, at which time it will permit the undocumented residents to enter the standard driving license process; testing, written examination, eye examination and road test. In addition, they will be fingerprinted en route to obtaining a Driving Privilege Card.

Supporters of the legislation said it will make Delaware roads safer for everyone — drivers and pedestrians alike. It will for the first time allow the undocumented residents to purchase car insurance from reputable insurance companies, to protect themselves and other Delawareans in case of an accident.

Under the current situation, supporters noted, Latinos were being victimized by unscrupulous insurance agencies that claimed to be offering insurance coverage for the premiums they pay every month, until an accident occurred.

They said the change will also be a boost for the Delaware economy, as statistical studies have found that, from the estimated 35,000 undocumented residents in Delaware, some 20,000 are likely to apply for the driving privilege cards, purchase insurance policies and are most likely to buy automobiles. “That will increase employment opportunities and grow Delaware’s economy.

“Statistics also show that the absence of the ability to legally drive is a primary barrier to receiving educational, medical, social and cultural services. This law satisfies all the law enforcement concerns while relieving these barriers for people to improve their quality of life.”

The Delaware Hispanic Commission was created by Executive Order 28 for the purpose of expanding and improving the representation of and advocacy for Delaware’s Hispanic Community to identify and address the most important needs of Delaware’s rapidly growing Hispanic families.

In order to identify and address the needs associated with the state’s increasing diversity, the commission will focus on assessing the characteristics, contributions, needs and issues of Hispanic Delawareans.