The Maryland Senate [official website] on Monday voted 29-18 [legislative history] to approve a bill [SB 715, PDF] that would substantially expand the availability of driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants residing in the state. To be eligible to receive a driver's license, the applicant must provide proof of having filed Maryland state income tax returns for the previous two years, or being a dependent on such tax returns. These licenses will not be sufficient for situations requiring a federally acceptable identification. Legislators indicated that the bill has a very practical purpose for increasing safety [Baltimore Sun report], to ensure that all Maryland drivers have passed a driver test and carry motor vehicle insurance. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD) [advocacy website] praised the legislation [press release] saying, "more drivers on our roads will be trained, tested, and insured, improving highway safety for everyone. Voting in favor of this bill is the responsible and humane choice and will benefit all of Maryland's residents." The Maryland House is expected to begin hearings on the legislation later this week.
The policy of issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants has varied between states. In January Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill [JURIST report] that permits undocumented immigrants to obtain temporary driver's licenses if they can provide proof of one-year state residence and an unexpired passport from their country of citizenship. In contrast Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] issued an executive order [JURIST report] in August that instructs state agencies not to provide driver's licenses and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants who have gained the right to work under the new federal program known as Deferred Action [DHS memorandum; JURIST report]. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the order [JURIST report].