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Alabama bill would void some out-of-state driver’s licenses for migrants without legal status


Alabama bill would void some out-of-state driver’s licenses for migrants without legal status

Feb 27, 2024 | 7:59 am ET
By Alander Rocha
Alabama bill would void some out-of-state driver’s licenses for migrants without legal status
SB 108 aims to invalidate a specific type of driver's license issued by other states only to immigrants who cannot prove they are in the United States legally. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, during a session on redistricting on July 19, 2023 in Montgomery, Ala. (Stew Milne for Alabama Reflector)

A bill that would void out-of-state driver’s licenses given to immigrants lacking legal status passed out of a Senate committee last week.

SB 108, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would target “a class of licenses issued by another state exclusively to undocumented immigrants who are unable to prove lawful presence in the United States.”

“I saw the issue was part of the Florida omnibus illegal immigration bill that they had, so it seems to be something we might want to look at in Alabama,” said Orr in an interview last week.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development approved the bill 10-1 last week.

19 states currently offer driver’s licenses to immigrants living in the country without legal permission, but only Connecticut and Delaware offer licenses that are distinguishable from other classes of driver’s licenses, making them the only states targeted by the legislation.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles keeps a list of “out-of-state license classes no longer accepted in Florida” and it includes only Connecticut and Delaware. Orr also said the bill would currently only target those two states.

A citation would be given to those driving with the special class of driver’s licenses. As in Florida, the Alabama bill would require the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency to maintain a list of out-of-state driver licenses classes that are invalid in Alabama.

Allison Hamilton, interim executive director of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said in an interview that the bill seems more like a “statement,” not something that’s “necessarily going to have a huge impact.”

Hamilton said that most immigrants living in Alabama without legal permission are not using driver’s licenses from other states. Even when there is a process for immigrants to get a license, she said it’s challenging because immigrants still have to establish residency in those states to qualify.

“I don’t really think that it’s necessarily going to change the situation on the ground here in Alabama among the people who live here,” she said.

But the legislation could potentially impact Alabama’s economy more than immigrants themselves, she said, by deterring workers coming to the state under a contract or contractors’ willingness to do business in Alabama.

“We’ve seen that play out in Florida and Texas, especially recently, as they’ve implemented more stringent laws against immigrants,” Hamilton said. “It does deter contractors, and especially in construction, from taking on projects in those states because their workers don’t feel safe working there.”

When asked if the bill would violate the full faith and credit of the U.S. Constitution, which ensure that states must respect “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state,” Orr said the bill follows the same residency requirements as REAL ID, which established requirements that driver licenses and identification cards issued by U.S. states and territories.

“The REAL ID — they’re not supposed to be giving driver’s licenses to people that have no green card, no court date, no nothing,” Orr said.

To address legislation targeting these driver’s licenses, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont proposed a bill to standardize driver’s licenses in the state, making the special class of driver’s license indeterminable from others.

Hamilton said that the legislation is also about making a statement about policies and laws that other states have implemented.

“For Alabama to pass that is to disrespect the laws that other states have passed through democratic processes to de-validate that is a little over the top, in my opinion,” Hamilton said.