Currently, Pennsylvanians must provide proof of their legal status in the United States to apply for a driver’s license or learner’s permit. For the estimated 200,000 undocumented immigrants living in Pennsylvania, not having a driver’s license makes picking up children from school, shopping for groceries, or getting to work a daily risk. “A minor traffic stop can easily lead to deportation,” says Luis Larin, Statewide Coordinator for Driving PA Forward, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee that is leading the fight to expand access to driver’s licenses to all Pennsylvanians, regardless of immigration status.
“Our community has been called ‘essential workers,’” Larin says. “We keep the agriculture industry going. We put food on the table across the country during Covid, and yet we can’t get driver’s licenses. This is not just about the ‘privilege to drive,’ it’s literally denying that we exist, that we have a name, that we are human beings.”
Driver’s licenses also provide critical identification people need to pick up medicine at the pharmacy or cash checks, Larin says, adding: “You are very limited in where you can rent and the kind of job you can get without some form of identification.”
Driving PA Forward is an immigrant-led coalition of community and faith-based organizations, businesses, farmers, and labor groups that began working together to change Pennsylvania law in 2013 and became a formal coalition in 2019. Working with state legislators, the coalition recently introduced a bill that would extend the right to a driver’s license to all Pennsylvanians regardless of residency status while also ensuring strong privacy and data protections for all licensed drivers.
To push the bill forward, the coalition is organizing across the state—educating legislators about the issues, holding rallies, circulating petitions, and going door-to-door in key legislative districts to garner support. “We are grateful to Bread & Roses for their support in helping us to keep our community and our families together.”