Drivers License Campaign

Virginia Drivers License Campaign: Drive Virginia Forward

Why you should join this campaign.  Drive Virginia Forward

According to Virginia law, the Department of Motor Vehicles can only issue driver’s licenses to applicants who are able to establish proof of legal presence.[1] Thus, undocumented immigrants  – as well as some immigrants with legal status – are unable to apply for a license.[2] Because licensing laws are part of a broader legal framework, barring immigrants’ access to licenses marginalizes undocumented immigrants and criminalizes ordinary conduct necessary to work and support a family.[3]  VACOLAO pushes for a campaign to expand access to driver’s licenses.  Such reform would ensure that all drivers on the road take the same tests, meet the same minimum safety standards, and are properly insured.

Expanding access to driver’s license should be a priority for immigrant advocates as well as for the community in general for three main reasons: (1) criminal charges for driving without a license play a prominent role in the process by which most undocumented immigrants in Virginia are brought to the attention of immigration authorities.  It follows that expanding access to driver’s licenses would dramatically increase community stability and protect many families from being torn apart.[4] (2) Allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses would improve public safety, decrease the cost of automobile insurance, and facilitate fore effective law enforcement at the local, state and national level.[5] And (3) public awareness of driver’s licensing laws as a public safety issue is at an all time high due to this issue’s prominent role in a national debate spawned by bills introduced in several state legislatures and the sweeping adoption of laws providing access to driver’s licenses for individuals without Social Security numbers or legal presence in seven states since January of 2013.[6]  Finally, with the debate on comprehensive immigration reform in such a perilous position in House, and at a moment when the national focus on the debate over comprehensive immigration reform is at risk of stalling or dropping off, driver’s licensing laws are of great strategic importance.

[1] Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-328.1.  See  Obtaining a Virginia Driver’s License or Identification (ID) Card, DMV 141, Va. Dep’t of Motor vehicles,  (Dec. 7, 2012), [hereinafter DMV 141] available at

[2] Review of Virginia’s Legal Presence Law, Va. Dep’t of Motor Vehicles, (Aug. 11, 2013), [hereinafter Review of Virginia’s Legal Presence Law] available at

[3] Fact Sheet: Why Denying Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants Harms Public Safety and Makes Our Communities Less Secure, National Immigration Law Center (January 2008), [hereinafter NILC Driver’s License Fact Sheet] available at

[4] See e.g. id.; Anthony E. Mucchetti, Driving While Brown: A Proposal for Ending Racial Profiling in Emerging Latino Communities, 8 Harv. Latino L. Rev. 1, 10-16 (2005); Maria Pabon Lopez, More Than a License to Drive, 29 S. Ill. U. L.J. 91, (2001-2005); Alexander L. Mounts, A Safer Nation?: How Driver’s License Restrictions Hurt Immigrants & Noncitizens, Not Terrorists, 37 Ind. L. Rev. 247, (2003).

[5] See NILC Driver’s License Fact Sheet, supra note 3.

[6] Hansi Lo Wang, More States Let Unauthorized Immigrants Take the Wheel, NPR (June 23, 2013, 7:00 am), (Washington D.C. is expected to follow Vermont, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, Maryland, Oregon, and Illinois – all seven states passed legislation on driver’s licenses since January – and is expected to pass a law allowing residents without Social Security numbers or proof of legal presence to apply for driver’s licenses).