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Politics & Government

State prepares to move forward with drivers cards for undocumented immigrants

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Delaware Public Media
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Supporters of a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to drive in Delaware narrowly scored a victory this week.

House lawmakers approved the proposal by two votes, with several conservative Democrats and nearly every Republican voting against it.

Rep. Steve Smyk (R-Milton) says he thinks it’s a good bill, but that residents in his mostly rural district aren’t in favor of it.

“I’m not so sure that my constituents actually want to encourage the acceptance of people that are here illegally without actually spending time to help them to seek legal status over and above any benefits or rights," Smyk said.

Those applying for a driver privilege card would need to show that they’ve filed taxes in Delaware for the past two years, submit to a background check and get fingerprinted.

The fingerprinting requirement has some in the undocumented community balking against the legislation, but it was needed to gain support from law enforcement, says sponsoring Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark).

“The system will be implemented and we’ve got to show people it’s going to work. I understand the fingerprinting strikes a tough balance," said Townsend. "It’ll cause some people not to sign up for the card, but it helps make sure the system can be put in place in Delaware, so time will tell with good effort of implementation, we can make this work.”

The bill culminated from more than two years of work at the state level, with a task force issuing recommendations in late 2014.

11 other states, including Maryland, allow undocumented immigrants to have legal driving privileges.

Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill Tuesday night.  It becomes law in six months.