Although Governor Gina Raimondo highlighted a desire during her 2014 campaign to provide driver's licenses to undocumented Rhode Islanders, the General Assembly is not expected to move the issue forward in this session.
In the fall of 2013, Raimondo campaign expressed disappointment via Twitter when Democratic primary rival Angel Taveras said Congress should decide the issue of driver's licenses for undocumented drivers.
In an apparent attempt to cut into Taveras' support, Raimondo re-iterated her support for driver's licenses for the undocumented, when she formally unveiled her campaign at Pawtucket's Hope Artiste Village in January 2014. Her campaign team dubbed it part of a a "progressive policy vision for Rhode Island."
Yet the issue of driver's licenses for undocumented Rhode Islanders appears to have slipped from Raimondo's public remarks since she took office in January, with the governor focusing on the overarching issue of the state's economy.
A driver's license for undocumented drivers bill sponsored by Representative Anastasia Williams (D-Providence), is being held for further study. House spokesman Larry Berman said it is not expected to get a vote before the end of the legislative session; through Berman, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said the legislation is not on his radar screen.
In the Senate, similar bills sponsored by Senators Frank Ciccone and Juan Pichardo, both Providence Democrats, are also being held for further study. "They're not going anywhere [this session]," Pichardo tells RIPR. "There's not enough support in the Senate," Pichardo said.
Pichardo said Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE) was the only group to be outspoken in opposition to the Senate bills.
In a brief statement, Raimondo spokeswoman Marie Aberger said, "The governor supports providing licenses for undocumented Rhode Island residents and remains committed to pursuing a solution."
Ten states, including Connecticut and Vermont, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, offer driver's licenses regardless of immigration status, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
RIILE and other critics say giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants encourages people to enter the US illegally.
Steve Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, said providing driver's licenses to undocumented Rhode Islanders would promote public safety because “a license ensures they can be found if they get in an accident or otherwise break the law.” Pichardo said the licenses would also increase sales of car insurance.
Brown said the measure hasn't had "broad support" from law enforcement in Rhode Island.
Colonel Steven O'Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police referred comment on the issue to the governor's legislative office.
in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) Attorney General Peter Kilmartin suggested two potential amendments to the two Senate bills: adding a national background check and creating a felony offense for people who provide false information for a license to the DMV. Spokeswoman Amy Kempe said Kilmartin did not otherwise take a stance on the issue of driver's licenses for undocumented people.
This post has been updated.