Infrastructure & Environment

Thousands of Immigrants Seek Driver's Licenses as Maryland Law Takes Effect

January 3, 2014
 

Thousands of immigrants living here without legal permission will start the new year demonstrating skills in parallel parking and two-point turns in hopes of becoming licensed drivers in Maryland.

Maryland joins a handful of states on Jan. 1 that issue so-called "second-tier" licenses that allow immigrants who do not have full legal documentation to drive on Maryland roads, register cars and obtain insurance. The licenses will not suffice as federal identification.

Nearly 13,000 immigrants have signed up to take driving tests in the coming weeks, according to state officials.

Advocacy groups hail the licensing process as a step toward self-sufficiency for many and as a means to promote safety because drivers must know the rules of the road and can get insurance. Others have decried it: Del. Pat McDonough called it a sign that "Maryland has become the Disney World of America for illegal aliens."

"We provide so many benefits and attractions: drivers licenses, the Dream Act educational subsidies, other benefits," the Baltimore County Republican said.

Del. Ron George, a Republican from Anne Arundel County who is running for governor, said he's concerned about national security, saying that terrorists or gang members could come to Maryland and secure a drivers license.

Many immigrants, though, say the ability to get a license will make their lives easier. Armando Tema, an immigrant from Guatemala who lives in Baltimore, has marked his calendar for Jan. 9, when he has his appointment with the Motor Vehicle Administration.

He's a cook at a restaurant in Catonsville and said with a license, he'll no longer have to rely on the bus for transportation. He said he was beaten and robbed a couple of years ago while waiting for a bus.

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