January 9th, 2013 | City

State to issue driver’s licenses to qualifying immigrants

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement in August of a “deferred action” program for young immigrants, Connecticut will start issuing driver’s licenses to all residents who qualify for the program.

In his executive order in August, Obama decreed that undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 without criminal histories were eligible for a two-year term of protection that would prevent them from being deported and allow them to work legally. The state’s move will allow young immigrants under the protection of the federal program to be issued valid identification cards in the state of Connecticut.

The news came on Sunday at an immigration rally organized by the regional church group “Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut” in Fair Haven, Conn., according to the New Haven Register. The Register noted that the group also said it would push the state to issue driver’s licenses to all residents regardless of immigration status. Michael Lawlor, the state’s undersecretary for criminal justice, said that clearance from the federal program would be sufficient for any undocumented immigrant to be issued a driver’s license, so the state would not be performing independent background checks. He added that the new policy could affect anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 undocumented immigrants in the state.

“What we have now is a system where we’ve got tens of thousands of undocumented aliens driving around with unregistered cars, and that’s not helping anyone,” Lawlor said.

Lawlor said that while the licenses will be valid for driving, they may not serve as sufficient identification for federal purposes, such as boarding a plane.

The Register noted that the church group also said it would push the state to issue driver’s licenses to all residents regardless of immigration status.

The Illinois State Legislature approved a measure today that would do just that, sending it to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he will sign the bill into law.

A spokesman for Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said the senator intends to propose a bill in the coming legislative session that would extend driver’s license issuance to all undocumented immigrants.

The next legislative session begins tomorrow.