Immigration

More undocumented immigrants can obtain driver’s license; but not in Florida

Yajaira Gonzalez, left, a 20-year-old whose parents brought her to Omaha from Mexico shortly before her 9th birthday, and Fatima Flores-Lagunas, 24, a University of Nebraska Omaha junior, pose for a photo in front of Fatima's car with their drivers licenses in Omaha, Neb., Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Nebraska has issued 1,300 driver’s licenses to youths who were brought into the country illegally as children since the state became the last in the nation to let them apply.
Yajaira Gonzalez, left, a 20-year-old whose parents brought her to Omaha from Mexico shortly before her 9th birthday, and Fatima Flores-Lagunas, 24, a University of Nebraska Omaha junior, pose for a photo in front of Fatima's car with their drivers licenses in Omaha, Neb., Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Nebraska has issued 1,300 driver’s licenses to youths who were brought into the country illegally as children since the state became the last in the nation to let them apply. AP

Almost 37 percent of the estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the country can now obtain driver’s licenses, according to a new study issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts

“As of August 2015, 10 states and the District of Columbia issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants,” according to the report released Tuesday. “Nearly 37 percent of unauthorized immigrants in the United States live in a jurisdictions where they are eligible to apply for a license.”

The report, titled Deciding Who Drives, is the first comprehensive survey of the 11 jurisdictions that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license. Florida is not among them.

Adam Hunter, one of the Pew Charitable Trusts report team members, said the study shows the spread of undocumented immigrants across the country.

“With unauthorized immigrants more dispersed throughout the country, immigration is now a 50-state issue,” Hunter said during a webinar for the media in advance of the report’s release.

Overall, the report says, about 3.5 percent of the country’s population of about 318 million are undocumented.

According to the report, the state with the largest number of undocumented immigrants that provides driver licenses is California, with 2.4 million.

The next state with a large number of undocumented immigrants that provides licenses is Illinois, with 475,000; followed by Maryland, 250,000; Washington, 230,000; Nevada, 210,000; Colorado, 180,000; Connecticut, 130,000; and Utah, 100,000.

The jurisdictions with less than 100,000 undocumented immigrants include New Mexico, with 70,000; District of Columbia, 20,000; and Vermont, less than 5,000.

The number of undocumented immigrants in Florida has been estimated at between 730,000 and 1 million. In official estimates, Florida ranks third after California and Texas with large numbers of undocumented immigrants.

Florida legislators have tried several times to approve bills that would give undocumented immigrants in the state the ability to apply for driver licenses. So far none has succeeded.

Driver licenses in Florida and other states were regularly denied to undocumented immigrants after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — even though none of the terrorists entered the country illegally.

Records obtained by the Miami Herald shortly after the attacks showed that the majority of the 19 hijackers arrived with legal visas posing as tourists, businessmen or students.

The Herald obtained arrival and departure records for 10 of the hijackers, but the nine others also arrived by plane from abroad suggesting that they had legal U.S. visas.

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