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June 28, 2015

Temple law study advocates driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants

Immigrants Study
Driver's License Pennsylvania Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Driver's License Center in Bridgeville, Pa., Monday, July 9, 2007.

A new study from the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law says keeping undocumented immigrants from getting drivers license in Pennsylvania is costing both individuals and the state. 

The study, published on Thursday, claims that the 2003 state law that prevents undocumented residents from obtaining their driver's license holds people back from basic rights. 

It cites Karina Ambartsoumian, a Pennsylvania resident who immigrated from the Soviet Union when she was eight-years-old, as an example of how not having a license can drastically alter someone's life.

My education fell through the cracks. I completed one year of college, but without reliable transportation, I sometimes could not make it to school. I am also a type 1 diabetic and if there is a situation that I am in a medical emergency and I’m by myself, I can’t drive to my pharmacy to get my prescription. 

The study says not only does keeping undocumented residents from getting licenses keep immigrants in constant fear of deportation if involved in a traffic stop and hold back their economic mobility despite them already contributing taxes, but also wastes law enforcement resources on policing drivers without documentation. 

It claims that allowing these residents to obtain their licenses would improve relations with the immigrant community, boost their economic participation and add valuable funds to the state's revenue. 

Read the full study here