POLITICS

Connecticut Legislature Passes Measure Allowing Undocumented Immigrants To Drive

In this Dec. 16, 2011 photo a police officer checks a driver's license at a sobriety check point in Escondido, Calif.  Starting Jan. 1, 2012, police in California can no longer impound vehicles from DUI checkpoints when the driver's only offense is driving without a license. The impounds have been controversial where critics say they are used to drive out illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

In this Dec. 16, 2011 photo a police officer checks a driver's license at a sobriety check point in Escondido, Calif. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, police in California can no longer impound vehicles from DUI checkpoints when the driver's only offense is driving without a license. The impounds have been controversial where critics say they are used to drive out illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)  (AP)

The Connecticut Senate gave the green light Wednesday to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The bill, which last week received House of Representatives approval, is headed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk for his signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a 19-16 vote.

Immigrants would be able to obtain driver's licenses beginning January 2015. Applicants would still need documentation proving their identity and showing they have lived in the state for at least 90 days. They must also pass a driving test and a background check verifying they have no felony convictions in the state.

The licenses would be marked "for driving purposes only" and would need to be renewed every three years, rather than the standard six years.

Connecticut has an estimated 120,000 undocumented immigrants, of those some 54,000 could be eligible for a driver's license under the measure, according to the Hartford Courant.

The push in Connecticut comes as several other states such as Maryland, Illinois and Oregon adopted similar measures this year. New Mexico, Washington and Utah already allow illegal immigrants to drive.

And more than a dozen state legislatures have introduced similar measures this year alone. Among them are Nevada, Colorado, Vermont and California.

New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat lauded Connecticut for passing the measure.

“This is another terrific step forward for the immigrant community, but another sign that New York State has fallen behind as a leader in progressive reform," Espaillat said in a statement. "New York City remains the gateway for immigrants from around the world seeking to support their families and build a better life. But without a driver’s license, they are pushed to the margins and left vulnerable to exploitation by unethical employers."

In Connecticut, several Republicans voiced opposition, saying residents who are in the country illegally should not get a legal document. Democrats who support the measure say it would improve highway safety.

This is unfolding while California lawmakers also consider giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

A measure from Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo would allow people without a Social Security number to apply for a license. They must show several alternative forms of identification, including a birth certificate and proof of residency.

Unauthorized immigrants seeking a license also must pass a driving test like other applicants.

The California legislation, which passed the state Assembly on Wednesday, follows a law approved last year that allowed driver's licenses to be issued to unauthorized immigrants who are eligible for work permits under a revised federal policy.

Alejo said his bill, AB60, would increase safety on California roads. A recent study by the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that unlicensed drivers are nearly three times as likely to cause a crash, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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