Pennsylvania House Committee Schedules Hearing on Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens
FAIR Take | July 2021
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will hold a hearing on August 11 to consider whether the state should authorize driver’s licenses for illegal aliens. Not only does this policy create the appearance of lawful presence for the illegal alien, it also poses a national security and public safety risk by ignoring the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and conflicting with the 2005 REAL ID Act. Sixteen states have now adopted this reckless policy, the most recent being Virginia in 2020. Additionally, it has also been considered by legislative committees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
House Bill (HB) 279, sponsored by Representative Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia) would:
- Eliminate all requirements that a “standard" driver’s license or state ID card (which doesn’t comply with the REAL ID Act), can only be issued to people who can establish they are lawfully present in the United States;
- Allow applications for standard driver’s licenses with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS issues to illegal aliens, rather than a Social Security Number (SSN);
- Make all records submitted to prove identity, residence or age to apply for a standard driver’s license confidential and available only either with the consent of the applicant or pursuant to a warrant, subpoena or other court order; and
- Ban the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from asking applicants for standard driver’s licenses about their citizenship or immigration status.
The bill was introduced on January 27 and referred to the House Committee on Transportation, where it sat for more than five months. However, on July 7, it was scheduled for an August 11 hearing. Since Republican majorities control both the Pennsylvania House and Senate, it is concerning that a bill like HB 279 has been scheduled for a hearing. It may indicate there is bipartisan support to advance and possibly pass this legislation since driver’s license bills in previous years have not been scheduled for hearings. While most of the bill’s cosponsors are Democrats, there are two Republicans on the bill – Jonathan Hershey (R-Mifflintown) and Christopher Quinn (R-Media).
A companion bill has not been introduced in the Senate but leadership in both chambers have been troublingly quiet on the issue. Despite the bill’s supporters being vocal, there has not been any outspoken opposition to the legislation by legislators or the public. While Governor Tom Wolf (D) has not publicly taken a position on the bill, if it passed, he would likely sign it.
In past years, the Pennsylvania legislature has been strongly opposed to benefits for illegal aliens, especially compared to other Northeastern states. Anti-sanctuary bills have passed both chambers although the House and Senate have been unable to reconcile their differences. Most recently, in 2019, huge bipartisan majorities passed E-Verify legislation for the state’s construction industry. It’s unclear if the committee hearing on HB 279 represents a sudden shift away from the legislature’s prior pro-enforcement position.
When a similar bill passed in Virginia, Don Rosenberg, president of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC), who lost his son Drew to an illegal alien driver, condemned the move, saying “[a]llowing illegal aliens to get a driver’s license ... is not only bad policy but also dangerous … As a group, illegal aliens are terrible drivers. Years of data show they are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision, five times more likely to drive drunk, and 10 times more likely to hit-and-run."