January 8, 2014 By
Immigration activists say they will try again this year to get a bill passed to allow undocumented workers to obtain Iowa drivers’ licenses. Some states issue licenses to those here illegally, so they can drive legally to and from work. But, up to now, such bills have failed in the Iowa legislature.
Currently, only young, undocumented workers — so-called “dreamers” — can get licenses to drive. Tom Chapman, with the Iowa Catholic Conference, says some were afraid to reveal their illegal status to the DOT. “There was some fear for people to come forward in that process. It is a leap of faith for people to believe they’re not going to get into further trouble for this and they’re not going to be deported after they do it,” Chapman says.
Advocates for undocumented workers say the immigrants are driving illegally now to get to their jobs, and it would be safer for the public if they obtained licenses. In the past, large groups of immigrants have come to the statehouse to try to convince lawmakers to allow them to obtain driver’s licenses, even though they do not have documentation to hold down jobs.
Chapman admits the bill’s prospects are dim. “I think we’ve seen some signs that both parties are willing to open their eyes and see something a little different. Having said that, it’s an election year, so I think it’s going to be a tough road ahead for this legislation,” Chapman said.
A bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate last year to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, but it did not make it out of the transportation committee. Chapman said bringing the bill up again will help educate the public about illegal immigration.