A report by the NC Budget & Tax Center reveals the economic and public safety benefits of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the Tar Heel State.
Upwards of 254,000 immigrants could benefit from a state law allowing undocumented foreigners to get a driver’s license, the report says.
“More than 90 percent of North Carolinians use a car to get to work, either by driving alone or carpooling. Yet hundreds of thousands miss out on the opportunity to meet basic family needs and participate more fully in the state’s economy,” the BTC, a project of the NC Justice Center, says.
Alexandra Forter Sirota, the report’s author, estimated that at least $8.1 million would be earned by the state in collecting the $4 charge for providing a license to new drivers, something that would help to cover the processing costs.
In addition, allowing undocumented immigrants to have licenses would save the state money, since estimates are that the losses incurred in traffic accidents involving unlicensed drivers could be reduced by $4.1 billion per year.
“When unauthorized immigrants have safe, legal access to transportation, it improves their ability to get to work regularly and on time and gives them greater opportunities to fully participate in local economies. This, in turn, benefits the state’s economy,” Sirota said.
The report also emphasizes that a growing number of states - 12 since 2013 - have adopted policies that support the idea of issuing licenses to undocumented individuals.
North Carolina stopped issuing licenses to residents who could not prove their legal immigration status in 2006 in part because many immigrants were coming to the state from elsewhere in the nation where they could not get licenses to acquire them here.
More than 221,000 licenses were issued to undocumented people with a taxpayer identification number, but those have been expiring over the years leaving thousands of drivers without a legal document giving them permission to drive.
The situation has resulted in undocumented people taking a risk by continuing to drive without a license and has exposed them to being arrested at any time.