Fight to give driver's licenses to all immigrants continues after six years
Today marks six years since PennDOT sent letters to more than 2,000 immigrants across Pennsylvania informing them that their licenses had been cancelled after their Social Security number could not be verified.
Among them, only six immigrants decided to fight PennDOT in courts and they won the right to keep their licenses.
In 2011, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that PennDOT acted illegally when it cancelled the licenses, arguing that the immigrants had used Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of Social Security numbers.
In 2010, a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court ruled that PennDOT had no authority to suspend their licenses, no matter what ID number they used.
María Serna is one of the six immigrants who fought PennDOT, and is the founder of “Lucha Pro Licencias de Conducir PA,” an organization that continues fighting to allow all immigrants to obtain driver's licenses despite their status. To mark the sixth anniversary, the organization gathered today outside the driver's license center in Oxford and Levick St. in Northeast Philadelphia to promote their cause.
In 2013, State Rep. Mark Cohen introduced HB1648, which would provide driver licensing reform for undocumented immigrants. The bill got the support of 17 legislators but did not make it past the transportation committee. Cohen is expected to reintroduce the bill again soon.
The bill would allow undocumented individuals who do not have a Social Security number to use their ITIN or a combination of documents, including a valid foreign passport, consular identification, or a certificate of birth, marriage, adoption or divorce, to establish identity when applying for a driver's license. Pennsylvania law allowed such usage before 2002.
“This initiative to restore the licenses for immigrants is a matter of public safety and human rights,” reads a press release by the organization. “This bill would also reduce accidents and make roads safer.”