Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented in Puerto Rico

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Newly elected Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla is prepared to sign legislation passed by the Puerto Rican Congress to allow undocumented in Puerto Rico to be able to obtain driver’s licenses. Like so many states, driver’s licenses in Puerto Rico would be temporary and only be valid in Puerto Rico. Since the majority of those undocumented come from nearby Dominican Republic, many Dominicans will now have a chance to drive legally on the roads. More than that, they will be able to live somewhat out of the shadows of their immigration status, and be able to conduct legally some aspects such as opening bank accounts, be able to travel from place to place on the island without fear, and report crimes against them.

As I said before, a driver’s license or identification card is the most basic form of identification needed by any person in the United States or any of its territories. Without it, no person can drive, prove their identity, or even do basic things such as open a banking account, receive medical or other emergency assistance, or obtain driver’s insurance. Such a form of identification cannot protect an undocumented person from U.S. immigration, but at least it allows something of a life outside the shadows of their immigration status. Of course, the Puerto Rican government is doing this for protecting people on the road. If an undocumented person has no driver’s license and no automobile insurance, then they are a hazard that could end up in innocent people not only being injured or killed but with no measure of compensation.

I also wonder if there is question if this legislation is being considered because of how Puerto Ricans are being treated in some states? One of the saddest aspects of anti-immigration feeling on the U.S. mainland is that this has been translated into anti-immigration laws in certain states. You can be quite sure that Puerto Ricans have been hit by this anti-immigration (i.e. racist) sentiment simply because they are mistakenly identified as “illegals.” I cannot be sure if this is one of the reasons why such legislation is being considered in Puerto Rico, but there is no question that the legislation is being seriously considered because of road safety in Puerto Rico. Let us hope this legislation passes.

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