As many as 300,000 illegal immigrants in Virginia will be able to get “driver privilege cards” that allow them to drive legally in the state beginning Saturday.
“This change in Virginia law, authorized by the Virginia General Assembly, creates a driving credential for individuals who are non-U.S. citizens and cannot meet Virginia’s legal presence requirements, making them ineligible to receive a standard or REAL ID-compliant driver’s license in Virginia,” the state Department of Motor Vehicles wrote in a statement released on Dec. 15.
The cards will not allow noncitizens to vote in state or federal elections but will allow them the right to drive legally if they can prove income in the state or be claimed as a dependent on a recent tax return.
In a statement released following the announcement, DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb said the department was “pleased to offer this new credential giving thousands of tax-paying Virginians the opportunity to drive legally on our roadways.”
“Like applicants for any driving credential, driver privilege card applicants must prepare for their visit by gathering necessary documents and studying for all required testing,” Holcomb added.
Alexandria Democratic state Sen. Scott Surovell told the Virginia Mercury that the bill would “change people’s lives.”
The change in law followed the Democratic Party of Virginia gaining control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly in 2019 and is similar to driving privileges offered to illegal immigrants in other states such as New York and California.
Republicans opposed the cards, with some citing concerns about the potential for identity fraud. “This license can be taken as the person is a citizen of the United States,” Del. Terry Austin said earlier this year. “This could misrepresent an individual’s identity and compromise the safety in the United States.”
Democratic member Kathy Tran, who in 2019 lobbied for a bill that would allow abortions up until moments before birth, said the driver privilege cards are a victory for Virginia’s ethnically diverse illegal population.
“The ability to drive and live your daily life and be able to go work, take your kids to school … without additional stress, worry and fear will be tremendously life changing,” Tran said.