PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The R.I. Senate has passed legislation that would allow the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles to issue driving privileges to undocumented Rhode Islanders.
Under the proposed legislation, sponsored by Sen. Frank Ciccone, applicants must have reported income and deductions from Rhode Island sources or have been claimed as a dependent on an individual income tax return filed with the state in the preceding 12 months.
“We need to ensure that all drivers, regardless of their immigration status, are trained, tested and insured when driving on our roads,” Ciccone said. “This is a safety issue as well as an economic issue.”
“If the worst was to happen and an accident occurs involving an undocumented person driving, our residents and businesses are protected far better if this legislation is enacted as opposed to the current status quo,” he continued.
Ciccone said the permit would not double as a state identification card, meaning it can’t be used for voting purposes, and it would cost $50.
“You’re paying your taxes, you’re following the rules, that should not mean that your rights are being removed,” Rep. Anastasia Williams, the bill’s sponsor in the R.I. House of Representatives said.
The bill now heads to the R.I. House for consideration, but House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi said it’s unlikely it will be considered this legislative session.
In order to make it work, Shekarchi said the DMV would need to hire 24 additional employees, which would cost nearly $2 million. The DMV has also requested the start date be July 1, 2022.
While Shekarchi said he supports the concept of the bill, it won’t be funded if it’s passed this late in the session.
“This issue needs more attention and a full public vetting, but is workable if we have a fall session,” Shekarchi said.
Greg Pare, a spokesperson for the R.I. Senate, tells 12 News it’s hard to imagine the need for all of those additional employees to help the state’s roughly 30,000 immigrants.
“Furthermore, the driver’s IDs are in fact paid for by those applying for them,” Pare said.
Gov. Dan McKee has expressed his support for the bill, telling 12 News he looks forward to working with the General Assembly on legislation that works for both Rhode Island and its immigrant residents.
Supporters of the bill plan to continue to fight for these rights no matter how long it takes, though they believe that if it takes another year to make it’s way through the General Assembly, it will be too late.
“At the end of the day, it’s about safer communities, the safety for our kids and all of our constituents,” Providence resident Sucely Murillo said.