New Report: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented People would improve Public Safety and Benefit the Economy of Pennsylvania

Thursday, June 25, 2015                                                                                                      

Nicole Kligerman

The Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law outlines widespread benefits of extending driver’s license access

Philadelphia, PA– Based on over 200 surveys of immigrants across Pennsylvania, the Sheller Center report, entitled “Driver’s Licenses for all: The Key to Safety and Security in Pennsylvania,” finds that reforming current vehicular law such that undocumented people can access driver’s licenses would have widespread economic and public safety benefits for the state. The current law denies undocumented people the right to drive with a license, hampering Pennsylvania’s economy and security.

A direct link to the report can be found here:

The report, published today by Temple University Beasley School of Law, states: “We found that the denial of driver’s licenses undermines road safety and community security. It also hinders economic growth while costing the Commonwealth and its residents. Some residents are denied work, education, healthcare, housing, mobility, and family unity. A more inclusive policy, therefore, will benefit all Pennsylvanians by promoting the safety and security of all its residents.”

Fight for Driver’s Licenses PA and New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia strongly support the published findings of the report, whose independent findings corroborate the lived experiences of an estimated 200,000 undocumented Pennsylvanians. Both organizations are actively pushing for Pennsylvania legislation to expand driver’s license access. There are currently 21 co-sponsors for Pennsylvania House legislation, which will be introduced this month. Such legislation is a growing nation-wide trend; eleven other states, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC already provide licenses to undocumented people.

A farmworker and immigrant from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, Esvin Maldonado said the report findings reflect his lived experiences, “I live in Franking County where there is no public transportation, and my work day starts at 2 am. I need a driver’s license for basic things, like working, going grocery shopping, and identifying myself. If everyone who needs a driver’s license had one, we would be more prosperous, and everyone would be safer.”

Jennifer J. Lee, the Co-Legal Director of the Sheller Center, led the report. According to Ms. Lee, “The current driver’s license law in Pennsylvania undermines our public safety. Licensing all Pennsylvania residents will mean safer roads and better relationships between immigrant communities and law enforcement.”

The Sheller Center report comes a week after a series of successful public vigils in Harrisburg, Reading, Philadelphia and York in support of House Bill 1648, which would allow Pennsylvanians to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. During the vigils, a coalition of community groups Alianza pro Licencias, delivered over 2,700 letters from people of faith and 220 letters from Pennsylvania clergy in support HB1648 to the Chairs of the House Transportation Committee, State Representatives John Taylor (R) and William Keller (D). Rep. Keller agreed to meet with the coalition for the first time and to review the legislation.

Without a driver’s licenses and valid state issued ID, 200,000 undocumented people in Pennsylvania are challenged to meet the basic needs for everyday life and live in constant fear of deportation for driving without a license. The report captures not only the quantifiable benefits of driver’s license legislation but also the daily consequences of denying immigrants the basic right to safely access school, work, and health care.


Fight for Driver’s Licenses PA is a grassroots network of immigrants organizing across Pennsylvania for driver’s licenses for undocumented Pennsylvanians.

New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia is an interfaith, multicultural immigrant justice organization.