In a perfect world, everyone in this country would be here legally and be eligible for all of the privileges of citizenship. In the world we've got, however, there are some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, tens of thousands in Connecticut.
The vast majority came here to work and gain a better life — the same reason people have been coming to these shores for nearly four centuries. As New York Times writer Adam Davidson recently observed, the immigrants mostly help the economy. But to do so, many need to drive.
A bill before the General Assembly would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses. On balance, it is a good idea and should pass.
Opponents of such measures — now the law in three states — say that it shouldn't be allowed because it rewards people who are breaking the law. That is true. It is also true that the economy embraces many illegals. In short, this is a complex national issue, one the federal government must resolve. The state, in the meantime, has to deal with the situation on the ground.
Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, a group of more than two dozen religious congregations from the southwestern part of the state, has researched the issue and believes that allowing an estimated 54,000 undocumented immigrants to get licenses would make driving safer and less expensive for everyone.
CONECT estimates that unlicensed immigrants drive up auto insurance premiums by $20 million a year. If they now had to pass the driving test and get insurance, those premiums would presumably come down, as would costs associated with accidents. The group also estimates the state would garner $2 million a year in additional registration fees.
Police would be able to check their driving records, and not waste time sending them to court for driving without a license. With a license, drivers will be more likely to stay at the scene of an accident, report crimes and generally cooperate with police.
Until Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform, which may or may not happen this year, the state has to act in its best interest. Connecticut and other states are best served by having trained, insured, licensed drivers on the road.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at