N.H. Transportation Committee Hears Bill On Providing Driver's Licenses To Undocumented Residents
The house transportation committee voted on Friday that it would be inexpedient to legislate a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license.
This is the second attempt to pass a driver’s license bill in as many years to move this legislation forward in New Hampshire. In 2019, a similar bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.
The proposed bill this year would have allowed someone without a social security number to apply for a driver’s license, and it would have prohibited the DMV from releasing certain vehicle records to immigration enforcement agencies.
Some members said the bill needed more work; others said that driving was a privilege and not a right.
“I don’t see any references to the financial responsibility laws for having licenses,” said Republican Rep. Steven Smith, from Charlestown.
Those who testified in favor of the bill Friday morning said it would increase roadway safety.
“There’s a big web of stuff that could be resolved if we just allow the people to be who they are, and have some type of identification,” said Eva Castillo, who lives in Manchester.
Hollis police chief Joseph Hoebeke also testified in favor of the bill. He said it would provide people a way to show that they can safely drive, since they’d be taking driving tests, and it could help his officers.
“Because it provides them with a way to obtain accurate information, so if they write a summons, they know that the person listed on that summons is who they say they are.”
Nashua police chief Michael Carignan also supported the bill. The two chiefs have been meeting with leaders in the immigrant community over the past several months to discuss this legislation, and to build relationships.
Both chiefs said that having a form of state ID could lessen the fear some people in immigrant communities have of calling the police for other issues, such as domestic violence. Some worry that calling the police, and not having a state ID, could mean a call to immigration enforcement agencies.
“With that comfort [of a license] comes the trust in law enforcement that we’re there to help,” Carignan said. “It’s important for us to have that trust, and that trust, if it means giving them a license to drive a vehicle, and that’s it. I think that goes a long way to solving a huge problem for us.”
Aloisio Costa is a pastor at a church in Nashua. He said that piece of identification would provide peace of mind for people as they go about their day.
“They’re part of the community,” he said. “They're working, they're producing, they need to go to a doctor's appointment, go to school, go about their business.”
Elizabeth Bielecki, director of the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, testified against the bill. She said that it did not “provide clear authority for the division to issue licenses for those without a legal status.”
There are state statutes that allow the DMV to provide licenses for nonresidents in the country on a temporary status, including students at private or public institutions in New Hampshire, and those here for employment.
More than 250 people registered their support for the bill without testifying, and 7 people registered their opposition.
The committee also voted on Friday that it would be inexpedient to legislate a bill that would have indicated citizenship or legal residency on drivers’ licenses and nondrivers’ identification cards.