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Both the state and undocumented immigrants benefit from a license

It just makes more sense to provide undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island an ability to get a legal driver's license.

That's the conclusion that was reached by the joint legal and policy analysis done by the Roger William University School of Law and the Latino Policy Institute.

Currently, Rhode Island's laws regarding how to get a legitimate driver's license is needlessly restrictive to undocumented immigrants living in the state. The strict legislation of the state requires very specific documentation of identification, such as a valid passport or an original birth certificate—things that may be virtually impossible for an undocumented immigrant to lay hands on.

Currently, only 14 jurisdictions (12 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.) provide undocumented immigrants with the ability to get standard or alternate driver's licenses through the use of moderate or lenient legislative measures. Rhode Island isn't one of them, but if representatives introducing new legislation have their way, this study could change that.

The purpose behind requiring specific proof of identity is to help prevent identity theft and fraud—but the study indicates that those goals can be met while still lessening the burden on undocumented immigrants. Measures like allowing immigrants to use combinations of documents, including things like a bank statement and a certified birth certificate with a translation, school transcripts with a date of birth on them, divorce or marriage decrees and professional licenses, would greatly ease the burden on undocumented immigrants and allow them access to a valid driver's license—and that opens up other economic opportunities, like the ability to apply for jobs.

The study indicated that states that provide undocumented immigrants with a way to get a valid driver's licenses don't see a massive influx of immigrants—but they do see other economic benefits. People with licenses are more likely to purchase cars, insurance and poverty rates in the state are move likely to decline because of access to better-paying jobs than the kind that many immigrants are forced into because they lack identification.

Currently, if you're an undocumented immigrant living in Rhode Island, an immigration attorney may help you learn how to obtain the paperwork that can help you obtain a license. An attorney may also be able to help you find a way to petition for a change in your legal status.

Source: RI Future.org, "Providing undocumented immigrants driver's licenses will create safer roads and lessen poverty says RWU analysis," Steve Ahiquist, Jan. 05, 2017

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