State-wide day in support of driver’s licenses for undocumented Pennsylvanians
“I am fighting for a driver’s license because I am a mother of three children. I need to take them to school each morning. If I have an accident or accidentally run a red light, I don’t want to be detained and taken away from them. I just want a legal ID so my kids won’t be afraid of the police every day," said Lucy Marquez, member of La Alianza Pro Licencias.
On Thursday a coalition of clergy members and activists will hold vigils across Pennsylvania in support of legislation that would provide driver’s licenses for undocumented residents. The vigils will start at the State Capitol in Harrisburg at 3 p.m., to continue in Philadelphia (2901 E. Thompson St.) and Reading (St. Peter’s Church, 322 S. 5th St.) at 4 p.m., to end at York (intersection of Market St. and S. George St.) at 6 p.m.
The vigils urges passage of legislation that would provide undocumented people access to a driver’s license in order “to keep immigrant families safer from deportation, improve safety on the roads, and support Pennsylvania’s economy,” NSM stated.
According to organizers, participants will attempt to deliver more than 2,700 support letters from Pennsylvania people of faith and 220 support letters from Pennsylvania clergy, to State Rep. John Taylor, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and State Rep. William Keller, Democratic chair of that same committee.
Celia Mota, an immigrant from Mexico and civic leader at New Sanctuary Movement, predicted the next immigrant justice victory for Pennsylvania would be driver’s licenses for undocumented people.
"Despite significant challenges, we’re making gains for immigrant justice," Mota said. "Pennsylvania must be safer for everybody. We have a plan to win this fight and invite everyone to join in."
State Rep. Mark Cohen is attempting to reintroduce H.B. 1648, a bill that was disregarded by the Transportation Committee last year. The project proposes to allow undocumented individuals who do not have a social security number to submit a federal tax identification number 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.
According to Cohen, estimates show some 200,000 undocumented residents live in Pennsylvania. Before 2002, residents in Pennsylvania were able to get a driver's license using their tax ID number, but when the law changed, the state cancelled the drivers’ licenses of thousands who had gotten their licenses legally.
“My congregants are mostly undocumented and work like any other human being. They buy groceries, go shopping, visit friends and family and go to the church. But they don’t have the liberty of going to those places by car. The solution to this problem will be opening the possibility so immigrants are able to obtain an unmarked driver’s license,” said Pastor Aldo Siahaan, one of the 215 members of the clergy who wrote open letters in support of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Siahaan is a pastor at Philadelphia Praise Center, a Mennonite Church in South Philly serving Indonesian, Burmese, Vietnamese and Latino immigrants.
NSM highlighted that 11 other states, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have approved driver’s licenses for undocumented people. The organization says their ultimate goal is to make Pennsylvania the 12th state to do so.