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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

General Assembly considers drivers' licenses for undocumented residents

From the left: Lenka Mendoza-Larco; Jonathan Cano of the Centreville Immigration Forum; Emma Violand-Sanchez, founder of the Dream Project; Dream beneficiary Danna Chavez-Calvi; Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg; and Andres Tobar, executive director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center.
Now that Democrats control the Virginia General Assembly, advocates for immigrants’ right are hopeful that a law will be enacted allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.

Community activist Lenka Mendoza-Larco, speaking at a press conference Jan. 13 hosted by the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), said it’s important to have a valid driver’s license “so people can get to work and take their kids to doctors’ appointments.”  

“It’s also important for the safety of everyone on the road,” Mendoza-Larco says. People who drive without a license haven’t had the benefit of driver education and are more likely to get into accidents.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko introduced the bill (SB 643) in the Senate, and Del. Kathy Tran is the lead sponsor of the House version (HB 1211).

Allowing undocumented people to get a Virginia license would also help the economy, Mendoza-Larco said, noting that many people who can’t get a license here get one in Maryland or the District of Columbia and their property taxes for the vehicle go out of state.

“Every time you see cars here with Maryland plates, that means Fairfax County is not getting that money,” says Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Virginia residents who get out-of-state licenses believe it’s better to have any license than drive without one, Sandoval-Moshenberg says. “It’s a misguided effort to do the right thing.” 

Driving without a valid license can lead to criminal charges and ultimately put a person on the path to deportation. 

The legislation would only allow undocumented residents to get a standard license, not a Real ID, which means it could only be used for driving. It could not be used to register to vote or apply for benefits. And unlike the Real ID, it could not be used to board a plane or enter a federal building.

Related story: ‘Real ID’ or passport will be required for domestic flights next year

Mendoza-Larco, a native of Peru who operates a catering business, has been in the U.S. for 20 years and obtained a Virginia drivers’ license before the state tightened the rules.

Virginia made it illegal for undocumented residents to get a license in 2014 following the anti-terrorist climate stemming from 9/11. Two of the terrorists had Virginia drivers’ licenses, but they were here legally on student visas, notes Sandoval-Moshenberg.

The legislation protects privacy rights, too, he says, so the federal government won’t be able to access people’s personal information without a court order. Private data companies will no longer be able to access anyone’s data and sell it to advertisers.

The VACOLAO briefing also highlighted proposed legislation to allow undocumented residents to pay the in-state tuition rate at Virginia colleges and universities.

Currently, “dreamers” (students who arrived in the U.S. as children and were approved for DACA status) can apply for in-state tuition under a legal interpretation. Legislation proposed by Sen. Boysko and Del. Mark Keam and Del. Alfonso Lopez would make the in-state rate for dreamers an official law and expand it to include all undocumented students.

Sandoval-Moshenberg says that legislation has a good chance of passing.

Lenka Mendoza-Larco’s son, Carlos Zuniga-Mendoza, a dreamer who is taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University, says this legislation would speed up the time it takes to get a college degree. He knows students who are paying out-of-state rates who can only afford to take one class at a time, 

According to VACOLAO, undocumented immigrants make up about 3 percent of the population in Virginia, and they paid $256 million in state and local taxes in 2015. All immigrants in Virginia comprise 16 percent of the state’s workforce and more than 17 percent of the state’s business owners.


  1. This is complete madness.
    Sorry to see how USA is killing itself with its own hands...

    first you allow breaking the law,
    than you look the other way to not deal with it
    now you encourage that by giving prizes to people who break the law...

  2. Not madness. Actually, sensible response to a need. Other states do this for the reasons mentioned in the article. It is unclear to me how this is the United States killing itself; I see it as making life here better for all of those who live here. Actions like this are necessary in the face of inaction on the part of our Congress and President to address immigration issues. Until that time, our Commonwealth needs to create a system that is as humane as possible.

  3. This proposal is not environmentally sensitive. Public transportation should be encouraged.

    1. Of course, but there are many places not accessible to public transportation.

    2. Well, there are options like Uber and Lyft and bike share etc. Why encourage even more drivers and traffic?


  4. PER DMV: Most vehicles have to be registered with the Virginia DMV within 30 days of purchase or establishing residency in Virginia. Contact the Virginia DMV for more information.

    Note, special rules apply to out-of-state cabs driven for personal use in Virginia, but displaying out-of-state plates. For example, a vehicle may be used as a cab in DC and display DC license plates. If however, when not in service, the vehicle is normally garaged at a Virginia residence and used in Virginia for personal use, that vehicle is subject to the county's personal property tax and is required to display dual license plates (i.e., it must display plates from both DC and Virginia at the same time). Personal use vehicles may be eligible for the Personal Property Tax Relief Act (PPTRA).

    WHEN IS THE COUNTY GOING TO START ENFORCING THESE CARS WITH OUT OF STATE LICENCE PLATES TO START REGISTERING IN VA. OUR LAWS DO NO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HAVING TO HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE TO HAVE A CAR REGISTERED. YOU LIVE IN THE COUNTY FOR 30 DAYS CHANGE YOUR TAG TO VIRGINIA. The county police use to have a website to report such people now they want individuals to report them to the tax office. In my neighborhood alone there are over 300 cars with out of state tags. I do not have the time to report over 300 cars from one neighborhoods. Apartment complex and suppose to enforce the county law as well however the do not. Drive by any apartment complex and county how many out of state tags you see. They want to continue to raise our personal property taxes to pay for schools and such, yet if they enforced this law they would have an overflow of money.

  5. This is nothing but another example of the creeping nullification of immigration law enforcement that's been promoted by Fairfax. It's also another reason this this area has become a magnet for illegals who should have been deported years ago. Contrary to what sanctuary advocates claim, there is little evidence to substantiate the contention that illegals make a significant contribution to local economies. What is certain is that local taxpayers must pay for the education of an increasing number of children who simultaneously provide a conduit for their parents to obtain public welfare benefits. -Sparky

  6. There go the Democrats. They have been waiting to start implementing their wacky ideas for years. “It’s also important for the safety of everyone on the road,” they say because they haven't had drivers ed. You don't have to have drivers ed to get a license and obviously a lot of people who are driving have never had drivers ed by the way they drive. The estimate of how much taxes illegals pay is ridiculous since there is absolutely no way to determine that. This is just a ploy to legitimize illegal immigrants and make them somehow legal. Legal immigrants are great for the country, but they have followed the rules to get here.

    1. That because the democrats want the immigrant votes. So if you don't like vote for leaders in the center, if you can find one!