Illegal immigrants can begin applying for legal driving permits in Virginia on the first day of the new year, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The state is the first southern state to allow people staying in the U.S. illegally to apply for such “driver privilege cards.” Roughly 300,000 illegal immigrants in the state are expected to apply for the permits, according to The Washington Post.
The DMV has listed requirements to qualify for a driver privilege card on its website:
You are a non-US citizen who is a resident of Virginia
You have reported income from Virginia sources or are claimed as a dependent on a tax return filed in Virginia in the past 12 months
Your driving privilege is not currently suspended or revoked in Virginia or any other state, to include insurance-related infractions.
“A driver privilege card is not REAL ID-compliant and, as such, may not be used as identification to board a flight or enter a secure federal facility. Driver privilege card applicants are not eligible for a commercial driver’s license or identification card,” the DMV website says.
According to the website, in order to obtain a driver privilege card, the applicant must pay a $50 fee as well as show:
Two proofs of identity
Two proofs of Virginia residency
Proof of your social security number (if you have been issued one) or your individual taxpayer identification number
Tax return documentation
The new permits are possible under a new law the Virginia legislature passed earlier this year. Critics of the law say that giving such privileges to illegal immigrants is a threat to public safety and national security.
“Giving any form of driving privileges to illegal aliens not only undermines public safety but national security as well,” Matthew Tragesser, spokesman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Providing these cards incentivizes more illegal immigration, rewards law breakers, and jeopardizes our national security.”
Advocates for the new law claim almost exactly the opposite, but they add that the new law will also aid economic growth by granting illegal immigrants’ greater mobility with less risk.
“It makes our families and communities safer: safer from being unfairly caught up in the criminal justice system and deportation pipeline for just trying to get to church or a child’s school and safer from being on the roads with unlicensed drivers,” Laura Goren, research director of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, argued in a January report pushing driving permits for non-U.S. citizens, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The law may make permit holders more vulnerable to being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Activists are pushing the state to adopt more stringent protections of illegal immigrants with the permits so lessen the chance that ICE finds them and deports them.
“Of course, there will always be those risks that each person needs to take into account before applying for a driver privilege card,” Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, the lead organizer of the immigration advocacy program at the Legal Aid Justice Center, told the Times-Dispatch. “That’s why it’s our goal as activists to secure those privacy protections and completely close the window that could give ICE access to this information in the upcoming General Assembly session.”